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Kirkland nightlife too lively for some

[Here is a story from The Seattle Times written by Lisa Chiu (Seattle Time Eastside bureau). Click here to read the story on Seattle Times website.]

On a recent Kirkland weekend, a line extended outside Tiki Joe's Wetbar.

Kirkavepub Just a block away from the Kirkland Avenue bar, couples listened to live music at the Wilde Rover Irish Pub & Restaurant. And things were just warming up at TJ's on Lake Street, a popular venue for hip-hop music.

Weekend nights in downtown Kirkland have always been known for action, with young adults frequenting the marina, taking in lakeside views by moonlight and enjoying the numerous bars and restaurants.

The crowds that descend on downtown Kirkland Thursday through Saturday nights don't bother retired couple Ena and Ira Dauberman.

The downtown residents recently took an evening stroll and said they love the vitality of the Eastside hotspot.

"We want more nightlife," Ena Dauberman joked. "We like to dance, and we love all kinds of music. There's nowhere else we'd rather be than here."

But for Debbie Lamont, that nightlife has become a nightmare.

Lamont, the 27-year owner of Bombaii Cutters, a salon on Kirkland Avenue, said she's fed up with what she sees as increasingly rowdy downtown patrons. She's had to replace the carpet outside her salon with tile because of cigarette burns and people urinating on it.

Nearby restaurant owner Pete Mangouras, who owns George's Place with his father, said they've had about seven broken windows in the past two years, four of them this year.

Before that, the restaurant, which has been in downtown for 30 years, had a total of two broken windows in its history, he said.

Kirkland police are well-versed in these divergent views of the city's downtown.

For years, they say, they've stepped up downtown patrols during the summer months. Police say their concentrated efforts have netted a significant number of driving-under-the-influence arrests.

About 35 businesses have liquor licenses in the downtown, police said. The increasing development downtown also means a larger residential concentration.

"It's an age-old dilemma," said Kirkland Lt. Rex Caldwell. "When you build condos next to restaurants and bars, you will generate complaints about those that are unhappy with noise and litter."

Caldwell insists that the downtown Kirkland bar scene is "most certainly not out of control."

But recent incidents are hard to ignore. In June, a man was shot in the leg near Kirkland Avenue and Lake Street following a knife fight near Marina Park. In 2005, nine were arrested in a brawl outside TJ's.

Police say that following these incidents they met with bar owners and discussed ways to better train their security staff and prevent overserving patrons and serving minors.

"The shooting was very unusual," said Caldwell, who added that the last time a shooting occurred in the city was about five years ago.

Data from the state's Liquor Control Board also showed that when those arrested for DUI were asked which bar they drank in last, Kirkland bars played a prominent role. Kirkland bars held five places among the top 10 cited throughout King County.

From Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 2006, of the 141 DUI arrests linked to the top 10 bars, 71 of those arrested said they last drank in Kirkland bars. No other city, including Seattle, had that many mentions.

But the data are subjective, said Susan Reams, the board's public-information officer. The numbers are tallied based on interviews of those arrested for DUIs, and alcohol can inhibit a person's ability to recall information, she said.

The data also do not take into account DUI stings Kirkland has conducted.

"What I've seen in Kirkland is aggressive enforcement work with liquor-control officers to reduce overservice," Reams said.

Kirkland police agree that their aggressive enforcement coupled with the way the city is laid out lead to these high numbers. If a drunken driver tries to get out or in, it's easy to catch them, Caldwell said.

"There are very few arterials to and from downtown. If people are intoxicated and are driving where they're going to be seen by police officers, they're likely to get stopped and arrested," he said.

But Lamont, the owner of Bombaii Cutters, said police focus too much on DUIs and not enough on business owners' concerns.

One of the biggest problems is people smoking outside bars since the statewide smoking ban went into effect last year. That means bouncers have less control of crowds, she said.

She spent $1,000 to change her carpet to tile because of the damage, she said. She also had to replace potted plants outside her store that were vandalized.

"It's the worst it's ever been," Lamont said. "It's out of control."

She hopes that the city will initiate dialogue between downtown businesses and bars. For example, Tiki Joe's bouncers always clean the sidewalk after the bar closes, she said. Not all bar owners are willing to do that, she added.

Mangouras, of George's Place, agreed that the situation has gotten worse, but said that it's hard to pinpoint who is responsible. Their windows were broken right around the closing time of bars and have so far cost more than $1,000 to replace, he said.

The first few were paid for by the owners of Tiki Joe's, Mangouras said. The rest were covered by their landlord.

At nearby Washington Federal bank on Kirkland Avenue, three windows have been broken in the past 18 months, said the bank's loan coordinator, Sharina McCraine.

Mangouras attributes the growing popularity of Kirkland to increased promotion by Kirkland bars. There are also growing numbers of Seattle visitors to Kirkland, said traffic division Sgt. Mike Ursino.

But on a recent weekend there were still many from the Eastside. They said they felt safer in Kirkland, and that it was easier to get home.

Mica Johnston, 30, and her friend Kellie Tuttle, 26, came to Kirkland from Bothell.

"I like the variety they have here," Tuttle said.

For 26-year Kirkland resident Beth Akins, the downtown area is noisy but harmless.

She remembers when it was a lot worse, during Moss Bay Days, a summer festival held in the 1970s and '80s that drew as many as 100,000 people. The festival was canceled in 1985 due to numerous arrests.

Her husband, David Akins, agreed. He said it's Kirkland's uniqueness that makes it so popular.

"We're one of the few cities that has a downtown. Most don't have a downtown where you can actually walk around and see people and listen to music."

Ryan Hitzemann is one of three bouncers at Tiki Joe's. He said he has worked in downtown Seattle, Florida and Boston, and prefers Kirkland.

"This is nothing compared to downtown Seattle. It's not at all like Pioneer Square," Hitzemann said. "I can work where I can be beaten or stabbed, but here people come and hang out and then hop in their cabs and go home. It's the easiest place I've ever had to work."

Lisa Chiu: 206-464-3347 or lchiu@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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Happy Hour Guide to Kirkland Bars and Restaurants

BeertapsOn July 7, 2006 summer in Kirkland was kicking into high gear and we blogged about top outdoor eating spots to enjoy while kicking back under the hot sun.  Well, unfortunately the good weather is winding down and those outdoor eating areas will soon be dormant for the fall/winter months.   So as we start moving back indoors we thought it would be a good idea to get a list of top Kirkland happy hour  spots and provide any details we could get from the bars and restaurants of in and around the downtown area.  These are all worthwhile spots to hit after work, down some beer and snack on some apps. 

This is another posting where we are just listing the data about Happy Hours.  Although we would like to visit every one of them and report on how good they are (or how good they aren't) we just didn't have enough time (or the kidney to support it).  We are hoping you--the reader--will comment if you have any additional data or an opinion on any of them here--the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Also let us know who we missed on this list.  Here goes, click on the restaurant name for their website (most websites include maps/directions too):

  • 21 Central--Prime steaks and seafood, located at 21 Central Way, (425)822-1515.  HAPPY HOUR DETAILS: Bar is open to 1:30 am.  There are seasonal happy hours, but at this time no specific happy hour is available.   
  • Cactus--Flavors of Mexico and the Southwest, located at 121 Park Lane, (425) 893-9799.  HAPPY HOUR DETAILS: 3pm - 6pm Monday through Saturday.  All appetizers and drinks are $4 during happy hour.  No happy hour on Sunday.   
  • Calabria--Restaurante Italiano, located at 132 Lake Street South, (425) 822-7350. HAPPY HOUR DETAILS: 7 days a week, from 4:30pm through 7 pm and on Sunday all day.   Live music some days.
  • The Central Club--Kirkland's last refuge, located at 124 Kirkland Ave, (424) 827-0808. HAPPY HOUR DETAILS:  Hard to believe but the happy hour every day from 11am to 2am.  $5.50 wells and $5 house whites. 
  • Hector's--full service restaurant and lounge, located at 112 Lake Street South, (425) 827-4811.  HAPPY HOUR DETAILS: Daily happy hour in the lounge from 4pm to 6pm.  $2 off all appetizers.   
  • Marina Park Grill--on Kirkland's waterfront, located at 89 Kirkland Avenue, (425) 889-9000.  HAPPY HOUR DETAILS: 7 days a week from 4pm to 6pm.   Restaurant would not provide additional details.   
  • Mixtura--new Andean cuisine, located at 148 Lake Street South, (425) 803-3310.  HAPPY HOUR DETAILS Closed Monday's, but happy hour is offered on all other days from 4pm to 6pm and from 9pm to closing.  Deals on Tapas, wine and cocktails.   
  • Pub at Juanita Bay--casual pub and hang out, located at 9736 NE 120th Place, (425) 823-6402.  HAPPY HOUR DETAILS:  7 days a week from 4pm to 7pm.  Drink specials vary daily. 
  • Rikki Rikki--Japanese restaurant and sushi bar, located at 442 Park Place, (425) 828-0707.  HAPPY HOUR DETAILS: Sushi Hour in the lounge Monday through Friday from 3pm to 6pm.   Various sushi and other specials. 
  • TGI Friday's--chain restaurant, located at 506 Park Place, (425) 828-3743.  HAPPY HOUR DETAILS: 7 days a week from 4pm to 7pm and then from 9am to closing.   During these hours appetizers are half price, but only if sitting in the bar area.   
  • The Shark Club--nightclub, located at 52 Lakeshore Plaza, (424) 803-3003.  HAPPY HOUR DETAILS: Wednesday through Saturday from 3pm to 7pm.  Includes half price appetizers, and $3 well drinks, draft beers and house wines. 
  • Third Floor Fish Cafe--seafood restaurant, located at 205 Lake Street South, (424) 822-3553.  HAPPY HOUR DETAILS: 7 days a week from 4pm to 6pm and from 9am to close.  All day Sunday.   Includes half off bar menu.   
  • Tiki Joe's Wet Bar--casual party bar, located at 106 Kirkland Avenue, (425) 827-8300.   HAPPY HOUR DETAILS: Every day but Monday from 4pm to 6pm.  Check promo calendar for specials events, including drinks specials.   
  • Wilde Rover--Irish pub, located at 111 Central Way, (425) 822-8940.  HAPPY HOUR DETAILS: from 4pm to 6pm and from 10pm to midnight every day of the week.  Various specials. 
  • Yarrow Bay Beach Cafe--restaurant and bar, located at 1270 Carillon Point, (425) 889-9052.  HAPPY HOUR DETAILS:   Every day from 4pm to 9pm--self proclaimed best happy hour in Kirkland. 

I wish the list was a bit more detailed in terms of exactly what is being offered.  But surprisingly many of the restaurants didn't want to give out any details over the phone and in many cases the folks who answered the phones weren't really sure.  That said, it's enough to figure out who is in the happy hour game and where you might want to go based on the type of establishment you like to visit.   Again, please comment and let us know which happy hours are best...thanks, Steve


Wall Street Journal Article Covers Building Issues in Kirkland

Hi all, here is an article from the Wall Street Journal--today's issue.   I was interviewed by Sara Munoz earlier in the week.   I am including the text of the article below without the pictures that ran with the article (you can find the pictures on WSJ.com, but you might need a subscription).  Several of the photos included were of Lux homes.  Would love to hear other folks comments on this issue as well as other issues relating to building trends in our neighborhoods.   Here is the article:   

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB115816983265962083.html?mod=todays_us_personal_journal

Invasion of the Roof Snatchers

Homeowners Maximize Space
By Going for Flat-Top Look;
Style-Conscious Towns Recoil

By SARA SCHAEFER MUÑOZ
September 14, 2006; Page D1

When it comes to flat roofs, beauty is clearly in the eye of the homeowner.

Eager to squeeze in more square-footage -- and increase property values -- while adhering to community height restrictions, a growing number of builders and homeowners are building homes with flat roofs. But these box-like structures and their party-friendly roof decks are sparking a backlash among neighbors who think the houses are homely, detracting from neighborhood character and blocking views and sunlight. Now, a number of communities are slapping new rules on builders that require sloping roofs.

Communities everywhere from Delaware to Washington are addressing roof pitch. The waterfront town of Bethany Beach, Del., several months ago passed a minimum-roof-pitch requirement after a spate of new, box-like homes dwarfed the town's older cottages. St. Augustine, Fla., last fall banned flat roofs for homes on some smaller lots over concerns about style and rooftop parties, and the city of Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle, is holding a series of community meetings with homeowners and developers on house-to-lot ratios, which address, in part, concerns about the increase in flat-roofed homes.

Many popular home styles, of course, such as Prairie and Pueblo, have flat or low-pitched roofs. And in some parts of the country, such as Santa Fe, N.M., some ordinances even aim to keep roofs flat. Still, in many suburban American communities, the majority of homes have sloping roofs. But now, some Realtors, builders and local officials say, flat tops are increasingly infiltrating neighborhoods that traditionally featured sloping-roofed cottages and bungalows.

A FEW EXTRA FEET

A Chicago-based home remodeler discusses how homeowners and builders are getting creative to maximize a home's square footage in communities with strict height restrictions.The trend is being driven in part by people seeking the best return on their investment amid soaring property values in recent years. It also demonstrates how zoning restrictions communities passed in recent years have backfired. In response to runaway development, many municipalities tried to prevent oversized homes on small lots. But in some cases, the unintended result was flat-roofed, boxy homes seen as out of character with surrounding styles. By using a flat roof, builders can sometimes squeeze in a second or third floor, adding square footage while staying under neighborhood height restrictions.

Kirkland, a city of about 50,000 people near the headquarters of Microsoft Corp., several years ago limited square footage on smaller lots, but officials say that move -- coupled with height restrictions -- may have encouraged flat roofs and boxy homes as people sought more space on the upper floor. "We may have gotten that wrong," says Kirkland Mayor Jim Lauinger. "When you have people taking away a peaked roof and putting on a flat roof to get additional volume, you've really altered what the neighborhood used to look like."

Steve Rabuchin, a Kirkland resident, learned that first-hand when a 5,000-square-foot, flat-top home went up recently on the lot below his 2,700-square-foot hill-side property. Because workers on the house chopped down trees, the Rabuchins now have a view of Lake Washington -- but with a broad expanse of flat, black roof in the foreground. "They maxed out everything they possibly could and ended up with a box," he says.

Yet builders say the flat-roof style allows them to get the best return in areas where land is pricey. John Lux, a Kirkland-area developer, built five homes with flat roofs this year, compared with one in the previous two years, squeezing in two stories and a partially exposed basement by using the flat-roof style. "The city is wanting to see smaller homes on these lots, but it just doesn't make sense financially," he says.

Flat roofs can also have drawbacks for owners. They generally don't stand up well to heavy rain and snow, and can require more frequent maintenance than roofs with a traditional pitch, contractors say. Flat roofs can also be more expensive to build, requiring more structural support. Yet Realtors say that flat-roofed homes can have a "wow" factor from inside, offering higher ceilings and the possibility of roof decks.

But some Realtors say that out-of-place flat-roofed homes could be tougher to sell. "Most people don't want a place that sticks out like a sore thumb," says Chuck Riley, a Realtor in the Washington, D.C., area.

Most homes going up with flatter roofs are in older neighborhoods, where the lots are so expensive that developers build as big as they can to make the investment worthwhile. Some big home builders are espousing the design: Pulte Homes Inc., based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., recently put flat roofs on a town-home development in Baltimore as a way to offer roof decks and add more living space. The Maryland division president says the company is planning more homes in the same style.

Flattening the roof isn't the only way builders are staying under height restrictions in certain neighborhoods. Builders will also grade the land higher at the base of the house, so the first story is partially underground and they can build higher, says Vince Butler, chairman of the Remodelers Council of the National Association of Home Builders. "When folks are trying to get the most space in their house they end up going up or down."

Builders also report that people on small lots increasingly are putting in big basements and protruding dormers -- portions of a home that often don't count against square footage restrictions. In some areas where regulations are strict and land is in short supply, it's not uncommon for builders to lift an entire house up on hydraulic jacks and put in a partially exposed first story underneath. This adds another story without going over height limits; it also makes for easier approval by architectural review boards because the addition is partially underground, says Paul Winans, a California remodeler and chairman of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Flat roofs can spur some strong emotions. In St. Augustine, Fla., residents in a series of meetings debated the merit of boxy homes before local officials passed an ordinance requiring that roofs on smaller lots have a minimum pitch. "When you plunk down one of these square boxes, it stands out -- it's an affront to the historic nature of the town," says John Marples, a resident who spoke at one of the hearings.

But residents Thomas and Elizabeth Dreisbach are chafing under the new restrictions. They own a 1,300-square-foot home on one of the city's smaller lots. They would like to enlarge their house by adding a flat or slightly pitched roof to get a deck, more space and increase the home's value. Now, they will have to request a variance. Otherwise, they'll try to put a large roof deck on top of a sloping one, which Mr. Dreisbach says won't look as nice. "These restrictions are just causing architecture to be uglier and are taking money out of people's pockets," he says.

Write to Sara Schaefer Muñoz at sara.schaefer@wsj.com


Kirkland PD Makes Amends

So you probably saw my small rant after my ride along never happened.   Since then the Kirkland Police Department has won me over, big time. 

Ursino_1 First, I get a call from the Ride Along Coordinator, Sarah Martin, offering to make it up to me.  Little did I know, Sargent Ursino (pictured left), took it upon himself to get me on a ride along.  It turns out it wasn't your standard ride along--Sgt. Ursino allowed me to hitch a ride during a Thursday night while they were running the DUI Task Force. 

Here is where you should listen to me.  Don't drink and drive!  The DUI Task Force's sole mission was to find anyone driving in Kirkland or Bellevue and get them off the street if they had too much to drink .  The task force is a multiple department initiative where police participate from Clyde Hill, Bellevue, Issaquah, and Kirkland (of  course).   They rotate the area they focus on, luckily for me we spent a great deal of time in downtown Kirkland.

Kirkland was hopping!  As the night began the bars slowly started to fill up.  By the time most restaurants are closing, most of the bars are starting to get lines out the door on a Thursday night.  The most crowded bars where Tiki Joe's Wet Bar, Time Out Sports Bar, TJ's, The Shark Club, and the Kirkland Ave Pub. Sgt Ursino said that Thursday nights are more popular than Saturday nights in Kirkland.  Downtown was packed! 

The night was exciting from start to finish.  At one point I believe we were shooting down Central Way about 80 mph, with lights flashing.   How often can you say you've done that?   I got a good adrenalin boost. 

We pulled over a lot of folks that night.  I was impressed that Sgt. Ursino took the time to explain what was happening throughout, including policy, procedure, and even his pet peeves.  The team took care with every stop, making sure someone backed them up at all times.  They were also fair and truly concerned with taking the drinkers off the street.  Just because a car was stopped didn't mean there was an arrest or ticket.

The team pulled over one guy just inside the East of Market neighborhood.  He was in a large SUV and was just plain drunk.  As I watched I couldn't help but thinking this guy was a family man who had too much to drink and was headed home to his wife and kids just blocks away.   He was taken away in handcuffs.

Then Sgt. Ursino spots a biker leaving the Central.  Right way he knows something isn't right.  We follow him a bit, until it's painfully obvious this guy is riding a huge Harley extremely intoxicated. He is weaving, going too slow, and putting his blinker on when there is no turn ahead.  We try to pull him over  by turning on our lights but he keeps going, oblivious that we are even behind him (oh, did I mention we are in an unmarked car? ).  Finally he pulls over before he does harm to himself or anybody else.   He stops his bike, gets off, and finally notices we are parked behind him.  Can you say "deer in the headlights?".   Turns out his license is suspended and it's not the first time he has been pulled over for a DUI.  After the field sobriety tests, he is handcuffed and taken away.  His classic Harley gets towed about 20 minutes later.   

Later that night we get a call about a fight at the Shark Club.  About 6 units converge on the Shark Club withing minutes to break up the fight.  I didn't see the action (as I was confined to the car), but the scene was incredible.  Imagine six police cars showing up in front of a busy night club.  One car is unmarked, two cars from Bellevue, one from Clyde Hill, and a few from Kirkland.  The crowd on the Shark deck was in amazement how fast (and how many) police showed up.   One arrest was made.   

I tagged along with Sgt. Ursino until 2 am.  I couldn't resist seeing the bars empty out.  Lots of folks having fun and some drinking too much.   I was amazed at the lack of respect so many folks have for the police--saying stupid  stuff and making gestures, etc.   The task force hung out in force during closing of the bars.  This was mostly to make folks aware.  I think a lot of them thought twice about getting into their vehicles that night.  The taxis were doing a brisk business. 

A few days after the ride along I ran into a few other officers at the Starbucks in Kirkland Parkplace. I was with my kids and the officers took the time to talk to my kids about seat belts and the use of 911.   

And if this wasn't enough our family had a slight emergency just a few days ago.  We actually had to call 911 and we had three police cars at our house within 4 minutes.  Luckily it was a false alarm, but the Kirkland Police continue to impress.  I can't say enough about them now that I have seen first hand how they operate, and have met a few of them in person.  No wonder Kirkland is such a great place to live!      Steve