Ballard brewery owner nearly loses business to homeless fire

Feb 2, 2023, 4:25 PM
Bad Jimmy's Brewing in Ballard (KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Co., a popular brewery in Ballard, was nearly destroyed last weekend after a fire, created by a homeless person in an attempt to stay warm, nearly engulfed the property in flames.

Jason Shrum, one of the brewery’s co-owners, caught the incident on surveillance video and believed it could have been much worse.

“Actually, one of my staff members, our taproom manager CJ, came in early and found the scorched ground and a lot of things had been lit ablaze,” Shrum said on The Jason Rantz Show. “Looked like a lot of trash been pulled out of nearby trash cans and dumpsters, a lot of napkins and paper plates. She called me, I came in, looked at the security cameras, and was amazed by the size of this fire that it started and that it didn’t catch our canopies, our outdoor beer garden, on fire.”

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Shrum stated the fire occurred just six inches from the business’ wooden patio, and no more than five feet from the wooden stage, which connects the tavern to all the other neighboring businesses.

“And then, there’s also residencies above those businesses as well,” Shrum said. “So, it could have been a lot worse.”

Bad Jimmy’s Brewing is no stranger to being a part of a community’s solution, with the brewery consistently donating to the Ballard Food Bank while also holding bar-themed fundraisers, including Wednesday night’s bingo event.

“We want to help,” Shrum said. “We want to help. We want to do everything we can, but I also don’t want my business to go up in flames.”

But, like many local businesses in Ballard, Shrum and Bad Jimmy’s Brewery hit a boiling point with the city’s ongoing homeless crisis.

“I come from my dad’s side of the family. Very religious, compassionate, helping everybody you can,” Shrum said. “But then, once you become a business owner, you get a little selfish at times, especially the last few years that we’ve been through. It’s just constantly getting kicked around. I don’t like to yell and scream and things like that, but I don’t know, eventually you hit a point like, what do you do? And I don’t know what the answer is. Otherwise, I’d be doing something else.”

Over 300 homeless people died in King County last year, surpassing the previous record of 195 deaths set in 2018, according to The Seattle Times. Additionally, 2022 saw a 65% jump in homeless deaths compared to 2021.

Encampment fires near Ballard are not uncommon. Last November, The American Red Cross had to help unhoused people find a place to stay after their tents caught fire at a Ballard encampment. The fire spread to nearby businesses, requiring Seattle Fire to extinguish the blaze.

Firefighters extinguish encampment blaze spread to Ballard business

Fed up with surging crime rates, Matt Humphrey and his Ballard-based barbershop, Steele Barber and Spa, hosted multiple local business owners for a makeshift town hall a few weeks ago to call upon their elected officials for increased support.

While Seattle City Councilmember Sara Nelson was the only one in attendance for the Ballard town hall, Dan Strauss — the representative for Seattle’s sixth district, which encompasses Ballard — contacted Shrum and Bad Jimmy’s Brewing over the incident.

“That says something. I know there’s always a political agenda on all sides, but it was nice,” Shrum said. “And they assured me that they’re working on the problem. They said they were sorry that this happened. They are trying to put, what I understood, some sort of task force in play.

“I’m not a political person,” Shrum continued. “We’re just trying to make beer and have a safe space.”

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Ballard brewery owner nearly loses business to homeless fire