They say community arises from necessity, which is exactly what happened when South Park resident Joel Clement invited his neighbors to adopt their local dive bar, County Line Lounge & Restaurant, assumed by many residents to be an eyesore and rendezvous point for drug pushers.
South Park, a blue-collar neighborhood just across the Duwamish River from Georgetown, has attracted a new wave of residents like Clement, 39, who works for a Fremont environmental foundation. Attracted by low housing costs, he moved here two months ago and began attending neighborhood association meetings to meet his neighbors. But the meetings were "just business," he says, where residents vet their issues—including nuisances like prostitution and drug dealing that plague many low-income neighborhoods. But one issue was particularly vexing for residents, he says: the drug pushers and general vagrancy in front of the County Line, located, as it happens, just beyond the county line, in a small two block by five block city parcel that emerged in 1913 when the river was straightened into a shipping canal. It was never annexed by the city and so it is just beyond SPD's jurisdiction.
Clement says the County Line is the first bar in his life he absolutely refused to enter, even though it sits on one end of the main urban corridor of South Park. One day, though, he and a friend resolved to check it out, and that first visit opened his eyes. "I found out once you got past the guys outside, it was just a regular bar," he says. The bar's problems are largely cosmetic. (The Liquor Control Board spokesman said that the bar hasn't had a violation in over a decade, and King County Sheriff's Office Spokesman Sergeant John Urquhart, who worked the area for seven years, says "it's hardly a hotbed of crime.") It was a place that could be adopted, rather than quarantined, Clement reasoned—as part of an effort to clean up the neighborhood without tarnishing its charm. Rita Rodriguez, a line cook at the bar, agrees that the riffraff outside gave the place a bad image.
And so five weeks ago Clement announced on the neighborhood's listserv that he would begin holding informal "community improvement" meetings at the County Line during Monday happy hour. It was an immediate hit, he says. Each week about a dozen new people show up. They often turn into 2:00 a.m. ragers with karaoke and dancing. Lately, the South Park Seniors Pinochle Association has been dropping by, and last week the owner reportedly donated bar food in a show of solidarity.
On Monday, June 27, I showed up to find a bare-bones, cinder-block dive, with pool tables, threadbare carpet, neon bar signs, and sports on the TV. Only bottles were available that night, because the County Line's keg cooler had broken. By 8:00 p.m. there were close to 20 people and the jukebox blasted R&B. One regular brought two friends and a man who couldn't make it sent his mother in his place.
Soon I met the neighborhood association president, Anna Marti, who said the group had already scored a victory by driving suspected pushers across the street—and into SPD jurisdiction.
"What do the regulars say to this?" I asked Clement. "There's 10 of them!" he replied, "and they're all here." I turned to see a line of old timers sitting at the bar. A few of them were clinking bottles with the newcomers. ■
GREENWOOD: Employees at a fabric shop made a gruesome discovery on Friday morning, June 17, while taking out the trash. Inside the unlocked Dumpster they found a few plastic bags bursting with long gray hair, skinned body parts, and guts. It turned out the abandoned, dismembered corpse—a "gross misuse" of the Dumpster, one shop employee said—was an animal, likely a horse, police say. ALKI: Over 100 residents flooded a community council crime-focused forum on June 16, driven by a trio of overnight gunfire incidents. One neighbor elicited cheers when he suggested installing surveillance cameras along the beach to deter crime. According to a recent neighborhood newsletter there's a "pandemic of terror" in the summertime-destination neighborhood: drinking on the beach, drunken brawls, assaults, public urinating, vandalism, and even gang standoffs. —AJ