New Year's Day Shooting Lands Belltown Bar On City "Watch List"

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee January 6, 2012

A gunfight in the early morning hours of New Year's Day had landed a troubled Belltown bar on a nightlife "watch list," according to city officials.

Just before 2am New Year's Day, bouncers were clearing the bar at the Copper Cart Cafe on 1st Ave. and Bell St. when a shoving match broke out. A bouncer heard gunfire outside the club and ran to his car, where he grabbed his own gun and followed the shooter down an alleyway.

The gunman fired off several rounds at the bouncer, who returned fire. All told, around a dozen shots were fired in the incident. No one was hit.

The shootout was captured on tape by local masked crusader Phoenix Jones, who was on patrol near the club at the time of the incident.

Now, following the shooting, the city's Code Compliance Team—staffed by members of the Department of Planning and Development, Seattle police, the fire department, and city attorney's office, who monitor nightclub activity—has added the Copper Cart to its "watch list."

According to city attorney's office spokeswoman Kimberly Mills, the city typically adds problem businesses to the watch list so officials can begin building a case to officially label it a "chronic public nuisance," allowing the city to fine the property owner or even seize the building.

The Copper Cart was previously on the watch list according to the city, but had been removed after the previous owners sold the business in October.

Because of Copper Cart's apparently troubled history in the neighborhood, members of the Belltown business community are calling for more drastic measures from the mayor's office. A letter sent to Mayor Mike McGinn this week, the Belltown Business Association called for "immediate action be taken with the Copper Cart," including an emergency shutdown of the bar while the Washington State Liquor Control Board  reviews the club's license.

"We implore you. Get serious about addressing the public safety issues facing Belltown," the letter read. "As Councilmember Tim Burgess has stated 'The violence in Belltown can be dealt with today.'  Today has long passed by. It is time to act with a sense of urgency."

A message left on the Copper Cart's voice mail Friday was not returned as of this posting.
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