The Lobby Bar, a bastion of LGBTQ nightlife smack in the heart of Pike/Pine, is leaving its E Pike birthplace and taking the next step in its search for a new Capitol Hill home.
“The Lobby Bar is not finished,” longtime manager and bartender Dave Orton said. “In the long run, it will be really nice to move into a fresh space.”
Management says the 900 block E Pike bar will celebrate one last weekend with November 22nd planned as its final day of business. The five-year-old night spot must be out of the 1910-built building by December. Orton said the Lobby’s employees were informed about the closure so there would be no surprises as rumors began to spread about the changes.
The building’s owners want to “cash in on the changing neighborhood,” a person familiar with the situation who declined to speak on the record tells CHS about the rising rent and what is coming next. There are no plans currently on record for the space to indicate any planned construction but Lobby’s Orton said it is clear that the landlords already have something lined up. “We were not given the option to renew the lease,” he said.
CHS has messages out to our only contact for the Chao family but have not yet heard back about the situation. The family purchased the building for $650,000 in 1992, according to King County Records.
Lobby’s neighbors in the historic but dilapidated building, in the meantime, are
expanding getting some company. The city permit for a construction project to transform the long-empty space between Lobby and the Comet Tavern was renewed in September filed last November but delayed by a DPD violation involving the more than 100-year-old building’s masonry and windows. Records indicate the additional space will be part of the new Comet, The Comet was acquired, overhauled and reopened earlier this year by business partners David Meinert and Jason Lajuenesse. Meinert and Lajuenesse also opened Lost Lake on the 10th Ave side of the building taking over the former home of gay sex club Basic Plumbing. UPDATE: Meinert said the empty space between the Comet and Lobby Bar isn’t part of his projects and that his partnership isn’t having lease discussions about that space or Lobby. UPDATE 11/17/2014 7:50 AM: We’ve updated this paragraph further to fix the error pointed out by Dave Meinert in comments below and better clarify the permit status. We have updated the paragraph to include information about the correct permit, filed last November. Here is the information about Project: 6388352. Applicant Babienko Architects also handled buildout permits for previous work at the corner.
The Comet is a CHS advertiser. The Lobby, by the way, was too.
CHS asked Meinert about rumors that his partnership is taking over the Lobby Bar space. Meinert tells CHS he was not aware the bar would be closing. In October, CHS reported that Meinert, Lajuenesse and manager Joey Burgess were taking over 11th Ave’s Grim’s and its upstairs The Woods dance club with plans to assess “all operations” before taking over the business completely in December and deciding on any new directions.
The confirmation of Lobby’s exit after five years of business comes the same weekend E Pike celebrated its new Out of the Closet thrift shop and new location of AHF Pharmacy. Meanwhile, the core two blocks of E Pike around Neumos will also soon have another new tenant in the space left empty earlier this year with the exit of Platinum Records. In other Broadway “lost lease” news, much-loved Red Light Vintage and Aprie clothing boutique also announced closures this week.
The Lobby Bar opened on E Pike in December 2009. First-time bar owners Curtis Bigelow and Paul Villa told CHS they hoped to create a space for members of the LGBTQ community who were “interested in getting a good, reasonably priced drink in an comfortable, inviting environment.” It arrived in the midst of rapid change — both for Pike/Pine’s nightlife and for gay culture in the city. From being at the center of the Hill’s celebrations of R74 to signing on against the Defense of Marriage act, the Lobby Bar became the place in the city where the TV vans set up to cover LGBTQ news events.
“We’re called the Lobby for a reason,” Villa told CHS this weekend. “We lobby for LGTB causes. We were there for R74. We were there for ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.'”
The rise of The Woo! Girl won’t mean the end of the Lobby, however.
Villa said the search for a new space for the nightspot has been underway. There are plenty of hopeful examples in the neighborhood to follow. CC’s has survived and thrived after its move to E Olive Way to make way for development of the Bullitt Center. Meanwhile, there are survivors. R Place just celebrated 30 years on Capitol Hill. The big hope, he says, is to find a new home he and Bigelow can buy and own outright to control their own destiny.
“We’re going to take our time looking and we’ll see,” Villa said.