It's Not the Beer Talking

The owner of the Blue Moon responds to Seattle Weekly letter-writers and rips City Hall a new one.

Letter writer Mel Murphy (Letters to the Editor, May 24) and City Attorney Tom Carr ("Lunar Eclipse," May 17) have much in common when it comes to the Blue Moon: Neither seems to have ever spent any significant time inside the place. Mr. Murphy says that "homeless-alcoholic-junkie types" came into his copy business and made things uncomfortable for him, his staff, and customers. Not surprisingly, they acted the same way in the Blue Moon and were promptly 86'd by the staff. Many of these people live in the bushes and unused garages in the neighborhood and suffer mental illness along with all their other problems.

Regularly, the Blue Moon's custodial staff cleaned up the litter of empty fortified beer and wine containers—products that the Blue Moon does not and has not sold in the last 24 years. Having done this task numerous times myself, I know that the filth goes well beyond mere recyclables. We also regularly trucked away the abandoned couches, TV sets, etc., that our housed neighbors abandoned by the dumpster in the alley. It is legal for us to haul away the unwanted detritus of our neighborhood, but there is little that can be done about the unwanted people who may choose to haunt the Interstate 5/Northeast 45th Street off-ramp begging zone. They didn't and don't come into the Blue Moon, and over time, just like Mr. Murphy, we learned that calling the SPD is futile.

It is too bad that Mr. Murphy's presumptuous hostility to the Blue Moon prevented him from working with us on the problem. I tried talking to him when he first opened his shop and couldn't get anywhere. It is also too bad that Mr. Murphy cannot differentiate men with long hair who live on the street from men with long hair who have well-paying straight jobs but come into the Blue Moon for its beer and irreverence. If the bar were to disappear tomorrow, the men who so trouble Mr. Murphy would still be there begging, drinking products purchased west of the freeway, and still displaying their septic and underdeveloped social skills. I am sorry that Mr. Murphy's business didn't become a raging success, and I am sorry that he has such a narrow and shallow view of what goes on near the 700 block of Northeast 45th, but in this he is no different than Tom Carr.

The city attorney in his comments to Seattle Weekly writer Mike Seely about the Blue Moon raises disingenuousness to a breathtaking level. He claims, "The thought that the city has liquor authority is not true." But he also knows, but does not say, that the state Liquor Control Board does not, in practice, overrule city objections to a license application or renewal. Senior WSLCB staff cannot remember the last time that they did not rubber-stamp what the city wanted. Unless a business owner is willing to commit osculation with the city's dark side, the city's objection to an application is, in reality, the kiss of death.

Mr. Carr and his staff, having tried to coerce me into signing an execrable Community Good Neighbor Agreement (CGNA), now vilify the Blue Moon as the source of all the neighborhood's problems. Much like Mr. Murphy, Mr. Carr's pronouncements about the bar show no actual knowledge of what is going on. On KIRO-AM's Dori Monson Show, Mr. Carr tried to imply that the Blue Moon was the source of a heroin problem that I've never seen or even heard about. It was an utterly baseless, outrageous, and tendentious claim. In Mike Seely's article, Mr. Carr tries to imply that there is some sort of alcohol-related problem in the neighborhood generated by the Blue Moon.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The street people Mr. Murphy complains about, and presumably to whom Mr. Carr is referring, are not allowed into the bar, and even if they did come in, the products they prefer are unavailable there. "They're selling a substance [i.e., alcohol] which causes problems, and what we're trying to do with the CGNA is to get them to act responsibly," says Mr. Carr. I have no idea where Mr. Carr gets his information, but the Blue Moon has had two minor tickets from the WSLCB in the last 24 years. This is not a community threat, nor is it a demonstration of irresponsibly selling alcohol. He would like to make it seem as if it were, however.

Much like someone who runs his fingers through the hair of a stray dog to learn about the nature of the surrounding world and presumes this to put him in touch with reality, Mr. Carr careens into raptures of pure fabrication. "We never, ever wanted to deny him a license; we just wanted to help him deal with the drug problem he was creating in the neighborhood," he says slanderously. Perhaps Mr. Carr would show the evidence to justify such an outrageous claim that somehow I use, buy, or sell illegal substances of any sort. It would be a shock to anyone who knows anything about me. Mr. Carr's staff created an incoherent and unsignable document whose main purpose was to deprive me of due process. I initiated negotiations with the city. The mayor's office filed for denial of the liquor application months before it rejected the Blue Moon's counterproposal. With this city administration, it is either knuckle under or get smash-mouth politics.

I thank Mary Witter for her kind letter and offer. My intention is not to have the Blue Moon close, but to find a new owner who appreciates what it is and, perhaps, have a more productive relationship with the intolerant, ill-informed bullies in City Hall.

Gustav Hellthaler is the owner of the historic Blue Moon Tavern, 712 N.E. 45th St.

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