To the dismay of elephants everywhere, it’s been confirmed that more than 650,000 pounds of peanuts have been annihilated by streams of spirited patrons at local watering hole Big Bad John’s.
The local institution — where a bucket of peanuts on every table is customary — is celebrating its 50th birthday, and guaranteed, there’ll be nuts, and bras at the 15-day “Big Bad John’s Birthday Week” party.
The hillbilly bar, which was given its theme as a potential draw to tourists visiting Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, belongs to third-generation owners Craig, Grant and Kirk Olson, grandsons of Barney Olson, who purchased the hotel in 1946.
The brothers bought out their uncle John after their father Keith passed away in the ’90s. John, who’s now 82, was six-foot-four, 240lbs, “and he was pretty bad,” says Craig with a mischievous smile.
I didn’t ask, but I have a feeling the bar might be named after him.
But if John is indeed bad, he’s got to be bad in the most unpretentious, bad-ass sort of way, because that’s the attitude in this eclectic space.
The walls are covered in stickers, photographs and currency from around the world. The ceilings are covered in bras, and deep within the clutter lie giant spiders ready to pounce on unsuspecting and befuddled patrons. And it manages to maintain its unmatchable sense of nostalgia even though there’s new stuff added to it every day.
“It’s the only space in the building we never touch,” says Craig. “It’s virtually maintenance free. We dust it once in a while, the burlap seat covers get changed and we’ve flipped the floor a few times.”
“And it still has the original TV,” says Gerry Laing, who started as a bus boy in 1968 and has been there ever since.
“A bottle of beer was 50 cents when I started,” says Laing. “We didn’t get draught until 1986.”
While prices during the celebration won’t be quite that cheap, BBJ’s is offering a $5 burger and fries, and $3.75 “XXX” house lager.
Hillbilly band Kin Fo will play a show Tuesday, June 26 (8 p.m.) and a staff reunion is planned for Sunday, July 1 (noon to 6 p.m.)
Any former staff members are welcome and encouraged to attend, whether the conditions of their departure were pleasant or not. Laing has been fired three times and he still plans to attend.
Who knows? Big Bad John just might even make an appearance.
Beers. Nuts. Cheers to another 50 years! M