Introduction 

On April 1st, about 18 people met at Miller Community Center with Darnell Parker, the present manager and proposed owner of Deano's Bar and Grill on East Madison Street. Dean Falls ("Deano"), the owner of the property was present for some of the meeting. Before Mr. Parker arrived, Assistant City Attorney Ed McKenna briefed us on the (recent) history of Deano's Bar.

As I (Andrew) recall, there were about 13 neighborhood residents present (5 African-American, the remainder white) and 5 representatives of organizations: Councilmember Compton's office, Dept. of Neighborhoods, City Attorney's Office, Seattle Neighborhood Group and CHHIP.

After the meeting I E-mailed those I could identify and asked their views. I also talked on the phone to two other particaipants I knew. I was unable to contact two other particapants: an African-American woman sitting on the north side of the room and a bearded African-American man on the south side of the room. Can someone identify them and invite them to give feedback? Yes, I should have used a sign-in sheet. Sorry!

Here are (slightly edited) versions of peoples' comments.


Person #1

I remain unconvinced that Mr. Parker will follow through with his stated
intentions for turning around the sorry circumstances in front of Deano's
Tavern. If he thinks replacing the steel door and planting a few inviting
posies in front of the entrance will send an unwelcoming signal to drug
dealers and prostitutes, and be a future deterrent to crime, his thinking is
in dreamland, and he is in complete denial of the sordid existing conditions
at the tavern site! Mr. Darnell was thoroughly unprepared to address the
group with any sort of realistic action plan and timetable for implementing
change to discourage the criminal activity. Ditto for Deano. Regardless of
whether or not Deano states he is an innocent, uninvolved, absentee, retired
landlord, he still has a personal responsibility as a property owner to
insure that his very publicly patronized real estate does not contribute to
neighborhood safety hazards and district nuisances. The two together,
landlord and tenant, must become a serious team if they expect to earn the
approval and acceptance of the neighborhood in this matter. There are
reasons why this particular property is a magnet for the dregs of the
civilized population that stretch far beyond the location and the
after-hours, high traffic nature of the business. If the property is, in
some way, contributing to the illicit activity on the adjacent sidewalk
owned by the City, then Mr. Darnell & Deano both have an obligation to
remedy the problem.; their responsibility does not end at the taven
threshold. Until the tenant and landlord show a serious good plan and intent
for correcting the existing circumstances any future liquor license should
be denied.


Person #2

I think Mr. Parker is very good at marketing his ideas, but I would like to
know more about his management experience and his willingness to provide
comprehensive security for this establishment. I quite frankly do not
believe that his ownership the business will make much difference.


Person #3

1) Darnell Parker is a perfectly lovely man and yes indeed, quite a
salesman. He does come with a fairly good resume, as people seem to be
impressed by his statement that he was the manager of record for Tompson's
Point of Veiw and the resulting improvements at the establishment over the
last year. He makes a great impression, however, talk is cheap. To be
blunt. I, personally, will not be satisified with any manager/owner of
Deano's Cafe & Lounge until I see a "Business Plan" or whatever hard
documents outlining the specifics of how they intend to run the business,
improve the facility, and address the pre-existing problems. We can not speak
to what goes on in the establishment. We ALL can speak to what goes on in
the vestibule and doorway into the establishment. The Doorway into Deano's
Cafe & Lounge, for whatever reason, and again, we can make no assumptions,
is a visible and popular congregation spot for drug dealers and
prostitutes. And, we believe it needs to be dealt with. I think the
neighborhood is of one mind about this, Darnell Parker appears to be a
legimate and sincere man, and we WISH to believe that his assumption of the
liquor license and by extension taking over Deano's Cafe & Lounge will
result in a new, vibrant, clean, legimate Cafe & Lounge in our neighborhood.
But as we are a frustrated, confused, tired, and demoralized community, we
can't believe in that until we see the "Plan" and also, hopefully, some
proof that Darnell Parker had the resources he needs to implement the plan,
which probably brings us back to Dean Falls to some degree...

2) From what I understand, the application for assumption of the liquor
license names 3 parties; Darnell Parker, His Wife, and a Third Party. I
would sincerely like to know who the the 3rd Party is. If, as inferred, the
3rd party is "Miss Helen" from "Miss Helen's Soul Food" fame, than that
too changes the landscape significantly. Miss Helen, from what I
understand, is a long standing and upstanding member of the Restaraunt
Business Community, with a sterling reputation and I beleive we would all
endorse her active presence back in our neighborhood...


Person #4

Come on, you have to give the guy a chance. I have been to his show at
Thompson's Point of View and he did a good job! He kept the crowd happy and
at the same time performed light comedy in between the karaoke singers. (I
used to be a Karaoke hostess, it's not easy!) For those who are unsure, go
check him out in action before you judge. Go to the club. I should ask you
Andrew, how has it been since he has been the manager? ANY improvements?
Has the guy done some things differently? I always say that to my friends
when they want to take their boyfriend back but he is still a jerk in my
eyes. If you take him back, make him do something different. Go to
counseling together, do a weekly date to church, visit both of your families
once a month. Some change in the routine that involves committing to
change. That is what I want to see from Darnell. Did he really change the
inside atmosphere of the club? The bathrooms? I will just have to make a
point of going to Deano's myself in the next couple of weeks and see what my
gut feeling is. When I went the one time before, it was not good. That was
several years ago however.

Why does the fact that he is charismatic and well spoken mean he sounds like
a "salesman". When those developers come and give their song and dance you
don't hear those kinds of comments about their demeanor.

What if the shoe was on the other foot and you were trying to convince a
group of black folks that your new business venture was "good enough" and
that you really were going to make changes? Yes, you are going to sound a
bit nervous, possibly a bit rehearsed, and probably like you are trying to
convince folks - cause you ARE!!! It is a HARD SELL!

It's just like all of the opposition that was going on when La Louisiana was
about to open up. "Oh, it's gonna be another Deano's". Why? Because it is
black owned and in a "problem neighborhood" or a historically crime ridden
neighborhood. Look at La Louisiana, it is a beautiful addition to the
neighborhood and now the neighbors are fully behind the owners, liquor
license and all!

The first rule of CPTED is to put safe activities in unsafe spaces and
unsafe activities in safe spaces - meaning get LEGITIMATE USERS into the
problem park that is a drug haven and MAKE THE THUG BASKET BALL LEAGUE use
the well lit and supervised GYM. Bring those guys into a safe space and
encourage them to buy in to their community in a different way.

I think that we have to give it time and just see what comes out in the
wash. After all, it all comes out in the wash. If he means to make
changes, it will be apparent, and quickly. If you take a "wait and see"
attitude, it is much easier to make a case whether pro or con after you
observe what happens. Give the guy a chance!


(I circulated #4 to the other attendees and received these comments)

Comment on # 4 from #3

Regarding the comments of others, let's not turn this matter into a racial
issue! It is all about public safety and neighborhood livability! I would
see the entire matter the same if the manager/prosective buyer just happened
to be white and a group of unsavory white dudes and whores were out on the
street creating a living hell every day and night and shooting one another,
turning tricks and selling drugs. Mr. Darnell and his landlord, Deano, need
to come up with a written plan that looks viable for correcting the unsavory
conditions. Both carry responsibility here and need to be accountable. If
the plan seems like a reasonable and realistic effort, then Mr. Darnell
should be granted his liquor license as a new buyer. But with only verbal
good intentions by Mr. Darnell and emphatic disclaimers of any
responsibility by the landlord, Deano, I believe the permit should be on
hold. By all means, I say we should give Mr. Darnell and Deano every
opportunity to show us what they plan to do to remedy the situation and
operate a respectable business, but vague verbal promises and a handshake
just do not cut it in light of the history unfolding daily at the tavern.

Comment on # 4 from #3

Problem here is that from what I'm given to understand, Darnell Parker CAN
NOT affect positive change until he is the owner. And, we-the-community
don't want to endorse new ownership until we see positive change.
Self-perpetuating problem. We have to TRUST that Darnell Parker will make
good on his promises to improve the situation that is Deano's Cafe & Lounge
ONCE he's the owner. And, herein lies the problem, once he's the owner, he
can do or not do anything he so chooses. So, again, he seems sincere and
motivated, and I'm more than happy to endorse his ownership, once his
promises & plans towards improvements are more specifically stated, defined,
we have an idea of the when and how he intends to implement them. I again
ask for A PLAN. I ask Darnell Parker to simply document and define his good
intentions.

You should probably let whomever wrote that letter know that she can visit
Deano's any time she likes, but it would be patentedly unfair to judge the
place at present as Darnell inferred that he hasn't been able to do much
towards cleaning it up and won't be able to until he's the owner...Again,
he's saying he can't do anything until he owns it. So, we-the-community
are going to have to act on Faith. And, I'm considerably more inclined to
endorse any candidate that has a PLAN


Person #5

I attended the Miller Park Neighborhood Association (MPNA) meeting on April
1st regarding the potential new ownership of Deano's Café and Lounge and the
related liquor license action. I came to the meeting with high hopes. I
came out of the meeting, frankly, disappointed.

The problem associated with the way Deano's Lounge has been operated is
well documented. It is pretty amazing how community residents,young and
old, long term and recent, black and white-have remarkably similar
experiences and observations about the impact of the Lounge and the traffic
in and out as well as the adjacent loitering. Our tenants and their
children have developed paths avoiding the block when they can. When they
cannot they brace themselves for are solicitations, catcalls and threatening
behavior.


I was expecting to hear a very specific and comprehensive proposal from Mr.
Parker especially given his own experience as the manager. I have no reason
to doubt his intentions. I found Mr. Parker to be engaging and
enthusiastic. I would love for him to be successful at turning Deano's
Lounge around. However, I did not hear a clear, specific plan for changing
the image and experience of the past. The problem we experience is much
more serious and complex than what I heard Mr. Parker address. I support
treating people with respect and improving the landscaping on Madison as
offered by Mr. Parker. No doubt some will respond to that. However, I don't
think that is going to deal with clear and rampant drug dealing, active
prostitution, tire slashing and shootings. Further, moving the problems
outside of Deano's only relocates the problem.


We also heard Mr. Parker and Dean Falls, owner of the property, say that
the problems that happen off their property are not their fault or
responsibility. Arguably not all of it is attributable to the bar patrons.
However, what I hear from our residents is that during business hours there
is considerable traffic from those loitering to the bar. Mr. Parker stated
that he is not responsible for what happ't agree with that philosophy. He leases
the space twenty four hours a day. How long his business is open is not the
community's problem. We heard Mr. Falls say that it wasn't his
responsibility as the property owner either. Well, clearly it is the
responsibility of one of them. It seems to me that if they both want to be
successful they would figure out a way to have someone responsible 24/7 or a
way to share that responsibility.


I recommend MPNA oppose the application for a liquor license unless a
specific, written business plan is presented acceptable to the community
that addresses the historic problems in the business and in front of the
business and includes a commitment to work with the community on the crime
problems in the surrounding blocks.


Person #6

As a homeowner close enough to Deano's Lounge to get the after-hours crowd
spilling through my street at night, I walked away from the Deano's current
manager/would-be owner meeting more encouraged than when I went in, but not
100 percent convinced.

The issue I have the most trouble with is deciding where the landowner and
business responsibility ends and the city and public responsibility begins.

Dean Falls' explanation that 9 out of 10 times the drug dealers I see
exchanging product for cash are just high fiving each other and that his
businesses have nothing to do with the street problems seems pretty
disingenuous. While the Deano's store has at least lowered the profile of
knife and pipe sales, you can still buy packages of little zip lock bags for
"coin collectors." You can't convincingly sell things that are obviously
there for drug dealers and then claim no responsibility for the drug
problems. Something must explain why troubled, addled people continue to
hang out in front of Deano's Lounge and in front of the Deano's store much
more than in front of the Twilight Exit bar next door, or Oscar's night club
directly across the street.

Since Dean Falls claims to be retired and have no responsibility for how his
business namesakes are run, I wonder what the parties involved are getting
out of keeping his name on them. If Darnell Parker, the manager and
prospective owner of Deano's, is serious about buying Deano's and changing
its image for the better, why not rebrand it to something new? The Deano's
brand is bogged down by years of neglect, and tarnished as a last refuge for
the down and out. While on several occasions I have seen Dean himself get
excited about his properties on Madison it has never been to maintain or
rejuvenate them as they are, but always to get the concessions he wants to
tear them all down and build something new. I get the sense he WANTS them to
be a community blight to use as leverage to force his rezoning and alley
closure requests to make way for the long-planned gentrification he has
proposed.

That said, while it is clear Dean's businesses both contribute to the
problems on Madison, he is right that they didn't create them and even with
the businesses closed the problems would not go away. So the challenge is to
hold Dean and his business tenants responsible for the things they have
power to change, while not blaming them for everything else.

The one thing that really bodes well for the future of Deano's Lounge is the
example of Thompson's Point of View. Darnell says he was a part of getting
Thomson's POV where it is today, having worked there for a few years. I have
dined there and found it to have a very pleasant and unthreatening customer
base, unlike Deano's, which is so unwelcoming few people I know would even
dare go in. Without gentrifying anything or alienating its core customers,
many who appear to be of modest means, Thompson's has created an environment
where it is enjoyable to have a drink, socialize, and get some great
southern-style food without any apparent negative impact on the community.
If that same formula could be applied successfully to Deano's it could be
another rich cultural and dining resource for the neighborhood.

Before I heard about the Thompson's connection I was dead set against
Deano's being allowed to continue, sick of the violence, intimidation, and
social problems that seem so tied to the place.

With the Thompson's tie, I am cautiously hopeful things may get better. I
don't think Dean's name should still be on the business. I do think any new
owners need to be held to a high standard of support for the community,
which has not been an obvious part of Darnell's management so far, although
our community meeting with him is a good start. Convincing the liquor board,
the police, and the community to go along with a continued business there
seems like an almost impossible task, but if Darnell is up to it I am open
to the possibility as long as he remains accountable. We will need more in
the way of concrete plans, and it wouldn't hurt if Darnell not only agreed
to meet with the community, but showed up to our meetings on time as well.
[I could be to blame here for confusion as to whether the meeting was at 7 or 7:30.
I did forget to check in with him the day before the meeting - Andrew]

I look forward to seeing how this works out. I plan to have a drink at
Deano's to investigate more closely the new environment inside, which I
think is an important step in understanding its future potential.
Unfortunately, I have not yet, because the outside is still sketchy enough
to make going in seem a pretty adventurous project for me, and an even
greater one for anyone trying to turn the place around.


Telephone reports

I contacted two attendees who lack E-mail (as far as I know). Both of them were

impressed by Mr. Darnell and both thought that we should give him a chance.


What Next? 

1) On the afternoon of Saturday April 12th I (Andrew) visited Deano's Bar and Grill. There are new bars on some windows, and signs warning against loitering. (Pictures). I visited with Deano and Darnell, and Darnell told me of his plans to clean up the outside (paint, flowers). Darnell also told me of his experiences at night discouraging people from hanging out outside the bar. He gave me a tour of the premises and I met the cook and admired the food. The small bar in the back was full of (mainly older) people but the larger bar was almost empty. Darnell recognized and greeted everyone who entered and left while I was there: he was clearly in charge!

2) When I drove past the bar at 10:30 that night there were ~ 4 people loitering outside the bar. A smaller crowd than normal: typically the sidewalk is impassable at that time of night. I got the impression that the crowds outside Deano's Grocery store (on the East side) were larger than normal.

3) I summarized peoples' views to Darnell: he was willing to meet with us again and offer us more concrete plans for running the bar.

4) Food service starts ~ 1PM. I suggested that he consider offering lunch: the seniors at McKinney Manor and elsewhere in the neighborhood mght well appreciate it.

5) I therfore suggest that we meet again with Darnell Parker, and that we do so at McKinney Manor. Darnell can then both satisfy our concerns and gauge the residents' interest in his lunch service.

Thank you all for your thoughts. More ideas, views, etc are of course most welcome.

Andrew