Bezos backlash: Signs of the times target Amazon in Seattle amid growth, affordability and HQ2 plan

Restaurant sandwich boards are prime real estate when it comes to showcasing more than just what’s on the menu that day. Comedians, punsters and poets are always more than happy to try to lure hungry customers who have an appetite for snark.

The Waterwheel Lounge, a dive bar on 15th Avenue NW in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, took its best shot at a familiar target over the weekend, especially in light of Amazon’s announcement last week that it is seeking a second headquarters location outside of Seattle.

In neon pencil on a black dry-erase board, The Waterwheel was advertising The Bezos Burger as “today’s special” on Saturday night.

“Like a regular burger, only 200 times more expensive and looking for another sleepy drinking town to gentrify into oblivion,” the description for the food read. “Only $2,000 a month for 400 square feet.”

The Waterwheel website calls its “awesome” menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads and more “better than you’d expect!” And on Twitter, the bar describes itself in its profile like so: “Fried Chicken. Karaoke. Booze. That’s about it.”

But gentrification of sorts, as noted in The Bezos Burger description, is definitely a reality for the low-slung establishment and others in Ballard and along that ever-more-congested north-south arterial. The bar is less about six miles from Amazon’s downtown headquarters, but like most neighborhoods trying to meet the demand for housing in the growing city, plenty of Amazonian’s now call Ballard home.

A new four-story apartment building, matching the look and feel of so many across Seattle, now sits right against the southern edge of The Waterwheel’s property. There are no windows on the north-facing wall that looms over the bar’s front, fenced-in courtyard.

Whether anyone inside will ever have a bite of The Bezos Burger remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, in language that was a little saltier and quicker to the point than the burger ad, vandals tagged an inside entrance of the northbound Battery Street Tunnel recently with another Bezos message.

Longtime Seattle photographer Joshua Trujillo shared the image on Facebook over the weekend. The ensuing back and forth in the comments on his post showcased the debate that is raging in Seattle right now around affordability and who is to blame.

In Amazon’s relatively quick and pronounced reshaping of Seattle’s urban core with its headquarters towers, South Lake Union office buildings, Spheres and more, this certainly isn’t the first time the company has felt the sting of public backlash.

“Are you a sociopath? Amazon wants you!” read fake recruiting posters that showed up around town a couple years back. “Have a conscience? Don’t worry, our work environment will strip it from you in no time! Apply today! #AmazonJobs.”

Other fliers have previously urged an end to the “yuppification of Seattle,” featuring a flipped Amazon smile logo that looks like a frown.

The signs came in the wake of a New York Times article at the time which described the tech giant as a grinding workplace that drove some employees to tears. It was an account that Bezos himself disputed, saying that such a place is nowhere he’d want to work.

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