Hundreds of Seahawk fans who pulled into the popular "Hawk Heaven" tailgating spot Sunday for burgers, beers and pregame festivities in...
Hundreds of Seahawk fans who pulled into the popular “Hawk Heaven” tailgating spot Sunday for burgers, beers and pregame festivities in a parking lot near the Alaskan Way Viaduct were greeted with eviction notices.
Fans were told that the game against the St. Louis Rams would be their last chance to tailgate at Hawk Heaven. Officials at Diamond Parking blame tailgating for their lots being vandalized, attendants being harassed and people getting into fights.
Monday, after fielding nearly a dozen phone calls and e-mails from angry Hawks fans, Diamond Parking officials said they will let people tailgate before the next home game, Nov. 12 against the San Francisco 49ers, with one catch: Drinking alcohol will not be allowed.
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Anyone caught with alcohol will be kicked out of the lot without a refund, said Al Kaufman, regional vice president for Diamond Parking.
“We were trying to get rid of tailgating to eliminate the drinking and the lots being trashed,” Kaufman said. “We have had abusive behavior. People fighting with customers and employees, refusing to pay for parking, accidents that have happened because they have been drinking too much.”
If the alcohol-related troubles continue, Diamond Parking will shut down the lots to tailgaters, Kaufman added. Diamond Parking charges $40 for a car and $100 for a recreational vehicle to park at Hawk Heaven on game days.
While officials at Diamond Parking say they hope Seattle police will enforce the no-alcohol policy at all 12 of their lots surrounding Qwest Field, officers said they don’t have the resources to monitor what people have in their plastic cups.
Sgt. Brian Kraus, who supervises a bicycle squad that patrols tailgating hot spots, and his officers have started handing out photocopied fliers warning it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in the Qwest Field parking lot. Officers tell people caught drinking booze from a bottle or can to pour the contents into a less-conspicuous plastic cup.
Kraus said fights and other troubles involving tailgaters are rare. The main issues police confront are minors drinking and public urination.
“We can’t control it [drinking]; we would be writing tickets all day,” Officer Rob Cierley said while patrolling tailgaters during the Oct. 14 game against the New Orleans Saints.
Diamond Parking will have extra security during the Nov. 12 home game to hand out notices about the alcohol ban and to monitor whether people are drinking, Kaufman said.
“We’re going to do our best to stop it. It’s going to be difficult to control,” he added.
Gus Kiss, who has been tailgating at Hawk Heaven for about five years, said Diamond Parking’s ban on tailgating was the talk of the lot Sunday. Kiss said the lot is safe and patrolled by police nearly every 15 minutes.
“The intent is to go have a good meal, have a beer or two, unwind from the week and to cheer the Seahawks on,” he said. “Everybody is parking in the same spot they always park, they know the people next to them, there’s camaraderie.”
Kiss and other tailgaters say it would be impossible to stop tailgaters from drinking.
“They’re not going to go around and write up 10,000 people for drinking in public,” said Ben Brashen, who tailgates in Hawk Heaven with a crew of about 100 people. “I think people are going to be sneaking alcohol.”
Joe Cahn, a New Orleans native who runs a Web site calling himself the Commissioner of Tailgating, said he already planned to attend the Nov. 12 Seahawks game as part of his nearly 40-game football season. But now, he said, he will make a point to support the tailgaters.
“Is there drinking going on? Yes. Is there drinking going on at any fair or festival in Seattle? Yes,” said Cahn. “I have never heard of this happening in any other place.”
Cahn said Seattle has long been the worst city in the country for NFL tailgating because of a lack of parking space and unenthusiastic tailgating fans. But, he said, Seahawks fans appear to be catching on and perfecting the ritual of adorning a piece of asphalt with house speakers, a gas grill and a flat-screen TV.
Suzanne Lavender, spokeswoman for the Seahawks, said the team had no idea of the problems being experienced by Diamond Parking and hopes tailgating will continue.
“It’s part of the football experience,” Lavender said.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org