Three nights before its biggest party of the year, Capitol Hill’s largest dance club received a troubling letter. The Seattle Fire Marshal was threatening to shut Neighbours down by New Year’s if the club didn’t cut its capacity by 70% to less than 400 people before the event, a requirement the club’s management said would cause irreparable damage to its business. The standoff, clearly, was resolved — you only need dig through the piles of photos posted from the party by Seattle Gay News to see that the party went off as planned. But behind the scenes, a deal was struck that has the nightclub on the clock for a series of expensive changes that must be made if it wants to continue to operate as it has for decades on Broadway.
Neighbours hasn’t returned our messages but, according to the City Attorney’s office, the issues reported on by CHS in September have come to a head — Neighbours is permitted only as a restaurant and requires a series of significant upgrades to keep dancing, the Department of Planning and Development contends. Meanwhile, the City says the club’s basement space, Neighbours Underground, is a goner:
Neighbours has until Feb.3 to resolve building egress, sprinkler system modifications, low-voltage fire-safety requirements, and seismic retrofits;.
o If Neighbours does not meet the 2/3/12 deadline, occupancy goes from 950 to 340 or 499 depending on what is not done and stays at that level until everything is done; and.
o The basement cannot be occupied because Neighbours can’t readily install a 4th exit, and can only be occupied if building and fire code standards are met and permits obtained.
The permit woes add to the drama currently surrounding the Broadway club as a Seattle Police investigation of a brawl involving Neighbours security and off-duty SPD officers continues. The Seattle Gay News, by the way, published this account after reviewing security footage from the incident.
Back before New Year’s as the club was scrambling to keep its doors open for its party, Neighbours lawyers filed a December 30th injunction seeking to block the city from shutting the club down:
But the city says a routine fire department inspection last spring of emergency exits and the fire sprinkler system revealed that Neighbours can not be permitted as a nightclub even though people have been dancing there for decades. Instead, records show, Neighbours was zoned as a restaurant and the space doesn’t meet the legal requirements for a nightclub. That spring battle dragged out through the summer. According to DPD records, Neighbours has since failed a series of inspections to review changes required for the club to continue its operations.
A representative from the City Attorney’s office tells CHS an agreement on the new February 3rd deadline put an end to the court proceedings for the time being. Neighbours and MDK Law Associates, the firm representing the club, haven’t responded to our multiple attempts since September to talk with them about the situation.
Construction permits on file for the address have not been approved by DPD at this time so it’s unclear what work the club’s management could complete before next week’s Friday deadline. It’s the club’s Show & Tell party night, by the way. What’s at stake? Here’s what Neighbours GM Steve Tracy said in the declaration he gave in support of the backburnered injunction: