Madrona Arms, the new occupant of the erstwhile Madrona Eatery and Ale House space on the corner of 34th and Union, had been open all of five days when the first complaint came in.
The new pub from the folks who run the Chieftain on 12th, Finn McCool’s in the U District, and McGilvra’s in Madison Park had decked out their latest joint in the thickly overdecorated style of pubs across the Commonwealth. Among the signs: “Low cut blouses are looked down upon in this establishment.” Another: “Men: No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service. Ladies: No Shirt, Free Drinks.”
Madrona resident Kelli Christensen, who had so been looking forward to the revival of that neighborhood space she’d made lunch plans there with a friend, saw the signs and her heart fell. “I was both disgusted and disappointed,” she said. “It angers me as a woman, as a mother, as a teacher, and as a friend.” She complained to manager Marcus Welch, and after a few days the low-cut blouses sign came down. Christensen began spreading the word; others complained. A few women in the neighborhood joked about staging a flash mob in which women of all ages lifted shirts and demanded free drinks.
Friday the free drinks sign came down.
“They were meant to be cheeky and fun,” explains Welch. “We had no intention of hurting anyone.” The signs had been put up on the bar side, not the all-ages restaurant side, but Welch acknowledges, they could be seen from all sides. Also, Welch insists, some patrons liked the signs. “During the complaints we had people at the bar who said, ‘That’s ridiculous, I’m offended that they’re offended.’”
“In the end, however, I had three very different demographics complain—a dad, a lesbian couple, and a hipster-looking lady,” Welch explained. “Those three demographics kind of told me that maybe [the signs] weren’t as tongue-in-cheek as Seattle wants.”
As of yesterday, the only offending sign left was one listing different rates for different lies the bartender can tell on behalf of a husband who’s hiding from his wife—suggesting, Christensen sighs, “that men are pigs and women are objects…until they become balls and chains.”
“I say we keep going until the last sign comes down,” she wrote in an Evite to a weeklong event called Protest Sexism in Madrona. “Are you in?”
For her part, Christensen was in the moment she saw the signs and realized she would have to change the restaurant for her lunch date—with a friend who had recently battled breast cancer. “How awful would it have been to take her to the Madrona Arms and see not one, but two signs objectifying women for their breasts?!” Christensen mused. “When I told her about the signs and the fact that I was going in to confront [them], I asked my normally fierce and feisty friend if she wanted to come along. She softly declined, saying, "I don't think I can...it just makes me really sad."