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Wednesday, November 11, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Cafe Hosts Eclectic Mix Of Music, People

SEATTLE

Even at 3 p.m., the dead time for restaurants, a steady stream of customers was walking into the Crocodile Cafe.

It was a curious mix that entered the doors of the nightspot/cafe at Second Avenue and Blanchard Street.

A suited, tied and briefcased businessman followed a woman wearing cut-off jean shorts, black velveteen tights and a shirt. A couple of twentysomethings sat at the counter, and owner Stephanie Dorgan reports regular visits by Soundgarden and Pearl Jam band members.

This random cross section of people emphasizes the random decor of Dorgan's cafe. Furnished through auctions, the cafe showcases tables from Trader Vic's, chairs from the former St. Cabrini Hospital and crystals from Tibet and Arkansas in the crocodile centerpiece hanging over the bar.

Long, thin, curvy blue and green neon lights hang from the ceiling and a papier mache ship's prow overhangs the entrance to the club room. The decor changes as Dorgan changes art pieces every few months.

Such randomness is what first attracted Dorgan, who quit her law practice two years ago.

Dorgan, a 33-year-old Seattle resident, holds an economics degree from Whitman College and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She practiced law at a Seattle firm for two and a half years.

"I always had the good student syndrome," she said, adding that she felt compelled to pursue a profession like law.

But she never developed a passion for it and soon tired of meeting the same people every day, she said. Deciding that Seattle needed a place that would promote the city's vital music scene and be a hangout for all types of people, Dorgan quit the law firm in February 1991 and opened the Crocodile a few months later.

Since then, Dorgan said she comes across a different slice of life almost every day.

"I enjoyed meeting all this mishmash of people. . . . The closest I ever got (as a lawyer) was that maybe I would meet someone who did something interesting, but that's still a step removed," she said.

"Now I understand anyone who has a passion for something. With law, it was just a way to make a living," she added.

She's certainly making a living now - to the tune of $40,000 to $60,000 in revenues each month.

Perhaps few people would have predicted her success at running a nightclub/cafe. After all, Dorgan's popular music experience consisted of little more than the typical music enthusiast and her restaurant experience included only a year of waitressing at an ice cream parlor in high school.

Yet in its short lifespan, the Crocodile has hosted such names in the music scene as Nirvana and R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck. The performing bands take home only the cover charges for entrance to the club but do not receive a fee from the cafe.

Much of the credit for bringing the music groups goes to Terry Lee Hale, former owner/operator of the Central Tavern, said Dorgan. Hale handles the live music bookings, which range from jazz to grunge.

Although primarily music, the Crocodile's attractions also include local poetry readings and plays. The cafe also offers a diverse menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with all items priced under $10.

"It's a nice neighborhood place," said Jay Scheib, 23, who lives across the street and visits the cafe twice a week on average. "Part of the reason why I moved here was because there were places like this in the neighborhood," he said.

Kim Miller, 24, said Crocodile helps keep the area alive.

"I think it's great to have this here," she said. "It keeps people moving through this area."

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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