Another last call in Ballard as new project will replace old bar
Established in 1950, Ballard’s Viking Tavern was a proud local hangout. Now it is making way for apartments and retail businesses.
Seattle Times staff reporter
It’s a story that just keeps repeating itself in Seattle these days:
Another old-time neighborhood institution closes its doors, to be replaced by a development.
On Tuesday, it was the Viking Tavern in Ballard that ceased existence after having been around since 1950.
It was hugs time for Peggy Cannon, who, with her husband, Tim Cannon, owned the joint for the past 23 years.
They don’t have kids of their own.
“All my customers, they’re our family. We have the best customers and the best staff,” she said Tuesday, sitting at the end of the bar, as yet another regular waved at her.
A guy who introduced himself as Capt. Ralph Hammersborg, 63, a ferryboat captain, is one of those regulars.
“I’m a Viking. I’m Norwegian,” he said. “I like this place because it has beer and I can walk home.”
He’s a lifetime Ballardite, so you know what he’ll be saying next.
“The neighborhood is changing. It’ll be another condo. We don’t need that,” said Hammersborg.
Sitting nearby is one of the younger customers who in recent years have discovered the Viking, located in a small, one-story building at 6404 24th Ave. N.W.
“You speak the truth,” Robby Dillon, 30, a landscape-design apprentice, told the captain about the condo comment. “I feel too many historic old buildings are being replaced by soulless monoliths.”
Dillon said he and his friends just like the easygoing atmosphere at the Viking — shuffleboard, a variety of beers and hard drinks.
And there’s the bar food that includes a beef brisket advertised as “we smoke our own” as well as “Nordic Nachos” with smoked ground beef and butter, kidney and navy beans, topped off with cheddar cheese, onions and salsa.
That is bar food that sticks to you.
The Viking’s colorful history includes selling fresh eggs from a farm in Brier. That started when the place was one of the few in the neighborhood with a large commercial refrigerator. In addition to eggs, the Viking used to sell milk and cream.
Until just a few days ago, the Cannons kept the egg tradition going. You could have a beer and go home with a carton of eggs.
Although Internet postings bemoan how developers are taking over old-time Ballard, it is the Cannons who for $1.2 million sold the side-by-side properties they own on the block that included the tavern, a barbershop and a couple of homes.
Peggy Cannon is 55. Tim Cannon is 66.
“We’re self-employed. We don’t have pensions. This is something for our retirement,” she said about deciding to sell.
The Cannons have had talks about resurrecting the Viking with Bill Parks, managing partner of Ballard Lofts, which in April 2012 bought the properties. Parks hopes to begin in June construction of a six-story, 72-unit apartment building, with retail businesses on the ground level.
Parks, a longtime Seattleite (he’s a 1968 Lincoln High graduate), said no decision has been made. He said that in talking to neighbors in the area, “the community is pretty divided on the Viking.”
Some like the neighborhood joint; some have complained “about late-night noise and behavior.”
Peggy Cannon said the complaints she has heard are from those who don’t like to see customers smoking outside the establishment.
“It’s a bar!” she pointed out.
She said that if the Viking lives again, it would replicate the old place, with comfortable booths and “no yuppie tables” — those high tables with tall chairs around them that are in vogue.
It is now midafternoon, and some 30 customers are crammed into the dozen-and-a-half vinyl covered stools around the bar, and seven booths.
There is talk about what Ballard bars they’ll now go to.
Maybe the Copper Gate, which advertises itself as “Scandinavian since 1946.” Maybe the Ballard Smoke Shop, reviewed online as, “This is the real thing.”
Tim Cannon said he’d be there Tuesday night to close up the tavern as the clock ticked.
Peggy Cannon said she would be going home earlier.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “I tend to cry.”
Times researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report.
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org