Tuesday marked the first day Seattle bar and club owners were officially free from the shackles of the much maligned “dance tax,” thanks largely, many say, to Sen. Ed Murray. On Wednesday some of those owners rewarded the mayoral challenger for his efforts. Seventeen music and nightlife industry leaders, including several from Capitol Hill, announced their support for Murray during a press conference at The Crocodile in Belltown.
“This group of people will be involved in doing things to make sure Ed wins,” said Mike Meckling, owner of Neumos, Barboza, Moe Bar, and Spitfire.
The music and nightlife support comes just ahead of Thursday’s Capitol Hill Mayoral Race Forum at Barboza, where Murray and McGinn will surely take on bar/food/club issues. Hopefully, things don’t get too awkward with Meckling and the management.
Murray’s nightlife industry nod may also help him break into McGinn’s Capitol Hill stronghold around Pike/Pine. CHS has previously reported about the Republican St. border war that split Capitol Hill in the primary election.
The Wednesday announcement was just one more boost for Murray who has gained some serious traction in recent months. In the latest September poll, 52% of voters polled said they would vote for Murray, compared to 30% who said they would vote for McGinn. The King-5 poll also found that Murray had a 57% approval rating, while only 40% of voters said they approved of McGinn’s work as mayor.
The Murray camp is also beating McGinn to the bank: As of the end of September, Murray had raised $567,500 to McGinn’s $344,000, according to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.
Earlier this summer CHS sat down with both Murray and McGinn separately to discuss issues on Capitol Hill. Both have gone on the offensive when it comes to transit. McGinn, who has been leading advocate on light rail and vows to expand service to Ballard and West Seattle, said Murray has no clear vision when it comes to rapid transit. Murray has touted his ability to work in the legislature to bring more transportation dollars into the city. He’s criticized McGinn as being too alienating, pointing to the mayor’s unsuccessful effort to stop the Alaskan Way deep bore tunnel.
Both candidates say they support microhousing as a market-based approach to affordable housing in Capitol Hill. In a CHS Q&A that addressed affordable housing, Murray said he supported “Community Benefit Agreements that can spur the creation of more affordable and workforce housing.” McGinn touted new affordable units going up as part of the Capitol Hill Station site and 12th Avenue Arts project. The mayor also convened an advisory group this Spring to “look at the city’s affordable housing incentive programs.”
Many in the nightlife industry backed McGinn in 2009, including most at the Wednesday event. The shift to Murray is partially a reward for his work on the “dance tax.” The repeal of the retail sales tax on dance cover charges means the state’s nightlife industry saved roughly $900,000 over the next two years, money that would have gone into state coffers. Club owners also said Murray would be more effective at ensuring the tax stayed off the books when the repeal sunsets in 2017.
Club owners also said they believe Murray will be more effective at getting extended bar hours passed through the Washington State Liquor Control Board. The liquor board struck down McGinn’s Seattle Nightlife Initiative in May on a 2-1 vote. The measure would have allowed municipalities to set their own closing times.
But David Meinert, who sold his stake in the Capitol Hill Block Party in 2012, said he and others also have more nuanced and politically astute reasons for supporting Murray.
“Waterfront development is really important and the mayor has no plan to accomplish this, Murray does,” Meinert said. “Different departments from the state and the port have to come together with the city with a plan, and the mayor has to be the leader. McGinn is nowhere to be found.”
Meinert also manages bands Hey Marseilles and the Lumineers, is owner of Big Mario’s and has stakes in two 24-hour cafes — the 5 Point Cafe and CHS advertiser Lost Lake Cafe.
The city’s music and nightlife leaders first organized as a political force in the 80s to repeal the city’s controversial Teen Dance Ordinance. Since then Meinert says many in the industry have continued to organize and exert their influence on political issues. While the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association does not endorse candidates, most at Wednesday’s press conference are among the group’s leadership.
At the press conference announcing the support, Murray, a 29-year resident of Capitol Hill, said he launched his first race for elected office largely with the support of neighborhood bar and restaurant owners. “It’s an industry I know well given the dynamics of my district,” he said.
UPDATE: Steven Severin, Neumos co-owner, was inadvertently left off the list provided to CHS and has also endorsed Murray.
The Capitol Hill Mayoral Forum
When: Thursday October 3, 2013 from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM PDT
Where:Barboza, beneath Neumos at 925 E. Pike St.
Register for free tickets