Goodbye, Basic Plumbing — Capitol Hill men’s club Tribe Seattle closes

Tribe Seattle — the men’s club formerly known as Basic Plumbing — has shut down on 10th Ave after 17 years on Capitol Hill:


Thanks to Jeff Hennes from Doghouse Leathers and the Cuff for alerting us to the closure. Hennes also helped us fill out some of the history of the bathhouse as he remembers it:

BP had opened about 1995 in the Villa Apts Building on Pike before it was remodeled.  This leaves Club Z and Steamworks as the only two private men’s clubs. 

We’ve left messages with management and Vernon Anderson, president of the corporation that ran the club, to see what else we can learn about the decision to shut down. A check of city records shows no new projects underway or violations at the address.

Over the years, the 10th Ave location for the unmarked sex club had become more and more a juxtaposition between an older, grittier Pike/Pine and the new era including neighbor Elliott Bay Book Co. down the street.

The building Tribe/BP called home has been owned by the same landlords since the ’90s. It remains the home of the Comet and The Lobby Bar. We reported in August on change coming for the retail spaces in the neighboring building on E Pike as restaurant Ballet and art space Square Room were told they would be losing their leases. Ballet has worked out a month to month deal to stay until the next project is ready to move in or Ballet finds a new home. The Square Room has since closed its storefront. UPDATE: Square Room says it didn’t lose its lease, exactly. See comments, below.

CHS never ventured inside Tribe so we’ll have to turn it over to this first person account posted on Yelp of all places describing the club. It’s written by an apparently disinterested party but gives you an idea of what you’d find behind the red door on 10th Ave:

As it so happens, late one night I escorted a friend who wanted a bit of fun. True to the virtues of friendship, he paid my entrance fee and bought me a membership.

Basic Plumbing isn’t like other bathhouses where you disrobe and walk around in a towel or nothing at all. Quite the contrary, you just walk around and around and around and around in semi-darkness wearing the clothes you came in with.

The labyrinth-like rooms and pathways are all situated on one floor. Along one corridor are a series of short stalls; I’m assuming this area is perfect for gay midgets or men who simply want to have a seat on their knees. I seem to remember a lounge area where you can surf the web or purchase a soft drink. God knows when I’m at a bathhouse I always want a Mountain Dew when I’m chatting with friends on MySpace.

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18 thoughts on “Goodbye, Basic Plumbing — Capitol Hill men’s club Tribe Seattle closes

  1. Next time you walk past this place check out the surveillance video cameras

    One dome camera one right above the door, two mounted at either end in grey boxes and one in a white tube housing – plus half way down there is a window high up between two air conditioners that has THREE regular VHS cameras at three angles – Seven cameras in total – kinda creepy

    Someone must like to watch

    I wonder how many cameras they had INSIDE the place …

  2. Have a look at the crowd congregating on that corner and read CHS news about people being jumped and mugged on CapHill all the time now. The cameras were for the safety of the customers on exiting. There weren’t cameras like that inside. The nature of the place makes it perfect for ambushing some unsuspecting guy on exit. I used to go there, and would always check the cameras before I mindlessly popped out onto the sidewalk.

  3. I guess this could be a simple “we lost our lease” story. But it wouldn’t surprise me if it didn’t involve meth dealing. The place has been crawling with little street urchin meth-heads and meth dealers for the last several years. It got ridiculous. It’s hard to believe the management wasn’t aware of it, or maybe even involved.

  4. According to the Property Report on the King County web site, the upper floors are vacant and considered “uninhabitable”.
    ( ) Front door seems boarded up too at the moment.

    An advert in Seattle Times in August 1909 described it as follows:

    BLUFF Apartments
    Corner east pike and tenth avenue
    Opens August 25, 1909
    New, elegantly furnished and unfurnished apartments, two three and four rooms. Steam heat, hot water, private halls, bath, disappearing beds, janitor service.

    How things have changed!

  5. Thanks for the background, BrandonMck, I’ve always wondered about the empty upper floors too. Considering the continually rising real estate prices on the Hill, I’m surprised the landowners haven’t found it financially worthwhile to rehab those floors.

  6. @Comrade: My guess is that rehabbing the place could take a fair bit of cash; and if the units are small by today’s standards, it may be hard to find tenants. Especially given that they are directly above a live music venue – the folks that that would like to live above the Comet are perhaps not the folks who want a newly remodeled apartment with a matching price tag. (And perhaps the last thing we want is for it to be carefully remodeled with the historical charm restored… and have the folks who move in then start complaining about the noise!)

    If the current owner has already paid off their loan and owns the building outright, they’re perhaps happy to just sit back and collect rent from the other commercial tenants rather than invest in a rehab that may or may not work out in the long run. Or perhaps just sit back and collect rent and wait till the building and/or land is more valuable again in future.

  7. Other than the building history ( and thank you for that ) this has all been speculation and silliness.

    Btw, I heard that Microsoft has bought the building and is turning it into offices with retail chain shops on the first floor.

    Capitol Hill is over. Time to move to Georgetown.

  8. Yeah, people have been saying that for years. And yet still, more and more sh*t keeps getting squeezed into the same 8 or 10 block square area of Pike/Pine on CapHill, and nothing in Georgetown.

    It does seem strange…you’d expect there to be a tipping point, but it appears we haven’t reached it–yet.

  9. I don’t like any of the changes either! I want it to go back to the way it was in 1993 when I was at UW! A half empty Broadway Market, a few sad little bars (but they were “gritty” and “dirty” so that’s a plus apparently), empty storefronts, and vintage clothing stores.

    Man, those were the good times!

  10. square room was not ‘told they would be losing their lease(s)’. We elected to vacate the space when the building owner, Ron Amundson, told us he was raising the rent by 360% without doing any improvements to the space or building. As was clearly stated in our lease, we had first right of refusal and could have easily taken the issue to court or arbitration for an additional 5 years, and more reasonable terms. Instead, we elected to move our studio off the street and into a more private space nearby.
    Additionally, the storefront is not ‘closed’. We were able to facilitate a deal between the landlord and Jason Hallman, an artist and friend of ours, who is utilizing the space as his studio/showroom until the building owner decides to lock the building up and let it continue to disintegrate.
    In the future, please do some simple fact checking before publishing information you think is correct.
    Thanks, and kind regards,
    Leif Holland/Brian McGuffey

  11. Thanks for clarification. Here’s the announcement you posted about Jason’s show:

    As square room at 910 E Pike St. comes to a close Dec 31st, we’d like to thank you for 5 years of continued success as we transition into our new studio space on Capitol HIll.
    We are grateful for you and for the opportunity to have had such a wonderful location. We are celebrating square room with a final show, Finding Home, by Jason Hallman. We celebrate Jason’s love for expression and his passion for art. As many of you may have noticed, Hallman has been working out of square room for the last few months, creating several amazing new works inspired by his spiritual personal journey, Finding Home. Please join Leif and myself on Thursday night for for the opening reception.

    It’s good to know about the new solution. Perhaps I need an updated contact for you — when I tried to leave messages in December, they were not returned. I’m also easy to reach — (206) 399-5959. We make updates and corrections to posts when needed and are happy to get more information out to people.

  12. So the march toward the sanitization of urban Seattle proceeds apace. Fock. Wasn’t it His Righteousness, Mayor Greg Nichols, who started this appalling pilgrimage back to the sorry ’50’s? There used to be an adult theater about three blocks north of Pike Street Market on 1st. It was ideal for a quick and satisfying rendezvous with someone who didn’t have ‘commitable’ written all over them. Just your average horny men looking to connect, literally, but it got sucked up by the sort of Puritanic stampede that Rudy Giuliani pulled on Times Square.

    Now what left? There’s that sex emporium around Westlake and Stewart where straights can watch slutty chicks under glass or, for those who prefer more interaction, there’s the adult theater … and booths. The former is a tomb for the Undead, the latter a ticket to jail.
    What happens for the rest of us who can’t afford a flight to someplace like Palm Springs for a weekend of ‘being bad’?

    Well, the result of all such crusades is always to drive legitimate sexual venues underground with all the ducking the fuzz, coping with criminals and all the other results of government hypocracy about sex.
    At this rate, we’re all going to be the tourists eventually, since noone else will be able to find anything more exciting to do than work, sleep, eat and masturbate.

    Like the above writer said, BP wasn’t perfect: the endless circling like a school of tuna, the vulgarity of their gallery of gloryholes and the confusing laybyrinth where you could easily meet yourself cumming when you thought you’d been going, but it was fairly sane, reasonably clean and the social games seldom got totally obnoxious. And there were only 3 clubs!

    One of them was the very standard Steamworks which also exists in labyrinthine twilight that reminds me too much of an urban jungle setting replete with sexual predators (scorekeepers, aggressors, denizens of the dark).
    But until a New Wave hits bathhouses and turns them more user-friendly (don’t take that wrong!), the Steamworks is about what you’re going to get.

    Then there’s Club Z, a vertical cellar in flat, peeling black. Aside from the hill-climb you get from three floors sans elevator, the last time I’d been away long enough to forget what it was like, I didn’t get past the lobby.
    Evidently something about me didn’t sit right with the large thug behind the cash register, who chose to let me, a mere customer, know of his disapproval by acting thuggish (makes sense), at which I told him to keep the dismal swamp to himself and to the herd of shame-junkies he allegedly served.
    When it gets down to only Club z, this horndog just ran out of men’s clubs.
    I was there once, skulking the grim halls, when I came upon an open door. Behind it, a man lay prone on something flat with a super-size jar of K-Y close by. It looked like half of it was smeared on his tush. Scenes like that bring to mind Mexican bordellos (yup, been there). When I told the guy that the whole place brought to mind Devil’s Island, the French colony for chronic criminals just off the coast of French Guiana, i.e., a third-world prison. Needless to say, tres, tres arousing.

    His reply: Sure. That’s what I like about it.
    So, Seattle is turning into Mayberry, R.F.D. I just escaped the Midwest to move here and enjoy a more LIBERAL way of life!
    That may be the case IF YOU ARE HET. I’ve never seen so many strip clubs in my life. We all know the sleazy $ games that go on in them. The typical American scenario: if you’ve got the bucks, you’ve got the pussy.
    Thanks to your website for springing this mournful news on me. I was going to go to BP this afternoon. Alas, no longer.
    Why can’t some gay guys with $ open a classy bathhouse to serve the gay community? Don’t we need something more lighthearted to do than work for Marriage Equality?
    I think Seattle is going to keep its nose to the grindstone, hardworking, virtuous, net worth-oriented until its nose is gone completely, leaving only a gaping, bloody hole in its face.

    It sucks.