After a months-long investigation by the Seattle Police Department, the city attorney's office is attempting to shut down a Lake City bar owned by former federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officer Salvador Chavarria Jr. and his wife, Chun Chavarria.
Rose Garden—located at Northeast 137th Street and Lake City Way—has, according to a letter signed by a Seattle Police Department representative, become the source of "a pervasive pattern of activity that threatens the public health, safety, and welfare of the city." Last week—in a rare example of a nightlife crackdown that appears to be justified—City Attorney Thomas Carr's office filed an objection to the renewal of Rose Garden's liquor license, scheduled to expire April 30.
According to documents provided by the city, Rose Garden—on the edge of the North Seattle neighborhood known to area residents and police as "Little Beirut" [see "War Zone," Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, March 12]—was the site of 10 violent incidents in the first nine months of 2008.
Neighbors consider Rose Garden to be a hub of criminal activity. The bar's dank interior—which still has a lingering smell from the pre-smoking-ban days—is filled with pool and foosball tables, and is mostly lit with aging neon beer signs. A strange collection of stuffed animals sits in a dark corner at the back of the bar. A sign above the bathrooms emphatically states "one at a time," while another sign above the bar's back door—which leads to the deck where, according to the city's letter, one patron was beaten and robbed last May—states that patrons "must" purchase something to be allowed on the bar's back deck. In 2008, police responded to multiple reports of fights at the bar, including one fight in which a bouncer was stabbed. In another incident in February 2008, a patron was kicked out by one of Rose Garden's owners after a fight and allegedly came back later carrying an ax. According to a police report about the incident, owner Chun Chavarria "grabbed the ax... and hid it behind the building so he would not find it."
Undercover narcotics officers also repeatedly visited the bar, purchasing crack cocaine from customers as well as one man who claimed to be an employee of the bar. According to the city's objection letter sent to the Washington State Liquor Control Board, that man reportedly told officers he "controlled the criminal activity inside and outside the tavern" and "was the person to see for drugs." (When Stranger photographer Kelly O visited to take a shot of the Rose Garden, a man came out of the bar—which was apparently closed—and followed her to the bus stop, where he offered her weed, meth, coke, and "cream," slang for crack.)
The city's letter to the liquor control board objecting to Rose Garden's license renewal alleges that the bar sold untaxed cigarettes, a violation of state law.
When confronted by the city with allegations of rampant drug dealing at the bar, Rose Garden's owners told police they'd heard about the undercover operations, but were unaware of any drug dealing going on at the bar.
However, Assistant City Attorney Ed McKenna says, "The community had been complaining [about Rose Garden] for quite a while.
"I think it's a pretty blatant case," Mc-Kenna continues. "You have an owner of a business who is a retired drug-enforcement agent who claims to have recognized when undercover officers were on the premises but not known" or recognized problems with drug activity. McKenna says undercover officers went to the bar "five or six times" and were able to buy drugs every time. "When you have a 100 percent buy rate, that's pretty bad," McKenna says.
One Lake City resident—who asked not to be named because he fears violent retaliation by the bar's regulars—says he became familiar with Rose Garden over the last year, regularly accompanying a friend when she visited the bar to buy crack.
"You want crack... go there," the man says. He adds that the bar is a destination for addicts from as far away as Lynnwood and Everett. "[I had] a friend that unfortunately liked that rock stuff. I said, 'Let me go with you [to Rose Garden].' It's a lousy place for a woman to be."
The man says he often sat with his friend at the bar for hours, waiting for dealers with names like Tut, Just, Pooh, and Baby Girl who occasionally would "dab," or rip off, his companion. Last time the man was at the bar, he says, someone threatened to shoot him. He hasn't been back since.
Another Lake City resident who has been to Rose Garden several times says that among neighborhood residents, the bar is "perceived as dangerous" and that it "wouldn't be horrible if it was gone."
The Rose Garden's owners, the Chavarrias, did not respond to a request for comment.