For decades, The Crescent Lounge has been a constant of Capitol Hill nightlife sustained, it turns out, by a sacred pledge. The reliable dive where gays, straights, and all stripes of Capitol Hill unite in drunken singalong seven nights a week on a sliver of E Olive Way isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As Capitol Hill dives from generations past get polished into something new, the Crescent has emerged as an anomaly in the neighborhood — a stubborn but lovable elder among the neighborhood’s bars that shows no signs of changing with the upheaval surrounding it.
Manager Kyle Horner said the bar has thrived simply because of its inclusive atmosphere.
“We really strive to make sure everyone feels as welcome as we can,” he said. “It doesn’t take a lot of effort to meet new people and make new friends here.”
Horner attributes much of the Crescent’s consistency over the years to the fact that the bar is essentially employee-run. Steve Song, a Tacoma-area real estate broker, bought the Crescent in 2008 after longtime owner Jim Feigley became ill. Song told CHS that, despite his name, he has very little to do with the Crescent’s day-to-day operations, but that he has no intentions to close the Capitol Hill mainstay. It’s possible he couldn’t even if he wanted to.
Feigley passed away last year at age 86, but not before he apparently secured the Crescent’s future to remain a karaoke institution. While CHS was unable to confirm all of the business details, Feigley’s estate does still own the building and, according to Song, it is to remain in the estate’s hands for a number of years. Eventually control of the building is to pass on to Feigley’s three adopted sons. The sons want to continue the Crescent’s tradition “seven years to forever,” Song said. Song also sent the following statement to CHS:
I would like to thank the community for supporting our business and we will continue to support our community as well. It has also been my promise to the previous owner and to my customers that I would carry on his legacy and tradition, and that The Crescent will stay the way it has been.
A couple of employees told CHS they have discussed buying the bar outright or turning it into a co-op. Horner said there’s nothing formal in the works, primarily because there’s no signs of any change at their beloved bar even as new places like the music bar Revolver move in across the street.
According to the “official” history provided by the Crescent, the bar has a storied past at its 1413 E Olive Way location, though much of it remains undocumented. The building was constructed in 1924 and in 1935 Harry Rice opened the space’s first bar, called the Arterial Tavern. Two years later the bar was split to accommodate a local grocery store. From 1942-1944, David Downie operated a bar called Downies. Following a few years of vacancy the Crescent opened in 1948, 16 years after The DeLuxe opened its doors to eventually become Capitol Hill’s longest standing establishment.
Horner said the bar was known to be a gay owned and operated business as far back as the 1960s. In 1972 Shirely Maser took over the Crescent, then sold it a few years later to longtime owners George Vanderpool and Feigley.
Feigley was a pillar of Seattle’s gay community and a pioneer in establishing the city’s gay nightlife scene. When he passed away last year, Seattle Gay News interviewed his three adopted sons who reminisced about the community-minded man who preferred to stay out of the limelight.
Given the bar’s long history and Feigley’s long involvement with Seattle’s gay community, it’s not surprising some Capitol Hill old timers have been calling the bar home for nearly 30 years.
“For those customers, it’s their lving room,” Horner said. “We take care of them like family because we are their family.”
After five years of working at the karaoke bar, Horner said the music is just part of the background. “We’re having too much fun to be burnt out on hearing stuff,” he said, although there’s plenty to get burnt out on. Horner immediately rattled off the Crescent’s top three most-sung karaoke songs… ever:
- Creep — Radiohead
- Total Eclipse of the Heart — Bonnie Tyler
- What’s Up — 4 Non Blondes
As the Crescent gets ready for Pride season, Horner said the bar will undergo some minor upgrades, including adding to the playlist and possibly upgrading some of the sound equipment. Other than that, he said bar-goers can expect The Crescent to remain its same, glorious self for years to come.
You can’t learn about the Crescent online. You have to go there. You’ll find the Crescent at 1413 E Olive Way. Forever, maybe.