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Originally published December 26, 2009 at 9:00 PM | Page modified December 28, 2009 at 6:22 PM

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Bar owner betting everything on 12th Man's thirst for victory

Rachel Kessel quit her job and sold her house last year to pursue a fanatical aspiration: Own a bar dedicated to the Seahawks.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Rachel Kessel quit her job and sold her house last year to pursue a fanatical aspiration: Own a bar dedicated to the Seahawks.

"I just thought it was plain wrong there wasn't a true Seahawk bar in Seattle," said Kessel, 37, a single mother whose son recently graduated high school. "We need a place that's our home. I decided to take a chance."

She turned that risk into the Hawks Nest Bar & Grill, which sits on First Avenue near Qwest Field. It's a haven for Seahawks fans and, on game days, the place is abuzz with the Blue Thunder band playing before the kickoff and patrons downing Hawk Bomb shots, a blue, vodka-inspired liver agitator that is mixed with a yellow energy drink so it will turn green before you toss it down your throat.

Kessel co-owns the bar with friend Joe Piano, who eventually succumbed to her persistent persuasion. The bar opened about a year and a half ago. Kessel left a career as a technical project manager and acknowledged the craziness of this plan. Her livelihood is now truly tied to the Seahawks' success.

"Yeah, it was pretty risky," she admitted. "My mother is terrified. There's a part of me that's kind of selfish about the Seahawks now. They have to win more and help my business. I sold my house, gave up my career and risked everything, including potentially going into bankruptcy if this doesn't work out."

Business has been OK so far, Kessel says. It hasn't helped that the bar opened in 2008, just as the Seahawks began their slide of the past two seasons.

A Montana native, Kessel had no local pro-football team to root for growing up, and she vowed that if she ever lived in an NFL city, she'd adopt that team. She moved to Seattle in 1994 as the Seahawks were in the middle of a sad decade of lowly performances that climaxed with former owner Ken Behring nearly dragging the franchise to Los Angeles. Still, Kessel came to love the Seahawks.

"I think it was a maternal thing," said Kessel, a season-ticket holder. "It was almost like watching your kid get beat up on the playground. I think it made me love them more than if they were really good at the time. Everybody knows what it's like to fail, get up and fail again. It made me feel closer to them. They were so sad, I just wanted to bake cookies for them."

Now, she serves alcohol to their fans. It's amazing how hard she fell for her adopted team.

"When I'm at the bar and that first Seahawks chant starts, I get goose bumps every time," Kessel said. "It's so worth the risk."

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer

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