Chop Suey is back. After shutting down two months ago, the new owners of the 14th and Madison live music venue held a soft open last week and a sneak peek event Thursday night in anticipation of the club’s sold out grand opening on Friday. Co-owners Brianna Rettig and Erin Carnes told CHS they couldn’t be happier with the neighborhood’s response to the revamped atmosphere.
“Seattle has a really tight knit, supportive community. Not a lot of cities have that,” said Carnes, who also co-owns The Escondite, a live music venue in Los Angeles.
The duo also revealed that the return of live music to the corner of 14th and Madison wasn’t necessarily guaranteed as they fended off heavy interest from an acquisitive developer.
While the Chop Suey name remains (to the dismay of some), the new owners have ditched the Asian-inspired decor in favor of a spruced up rock lounge vibe. The wooden stage pagoda is out, giving the new stage a more wide-open, commanding presence.
Along with co-owner Brian Houck, the trio added a “living room” space with couches, as well as a handful of pinball games and a fresh collection of art on the walls.
“The Den” is one of the most striking changes from both inside and outside the venue. The Madison-facing room had basically become a storage space under the previous ownership. With the windows uncovered, the 14th and Madison block is now noticeably livelier. Inside, the industrial-themed lounge is decked out with a new second stage, old boat anchors, and a bar made from railroad tracks (USB power outlets included).
Despite the changes in appearance, the new owners say they plan to keep things relatively consistent in the music department. Longtime Seattle talent booker Jodi Ecklund is staying on to continue the Chop’s tradition of hosting an eclectic mix of shows. With a revamped stage, green room, bathrooms, and a brand new sound system, Ecklund told CHS she hopes to attract some larger national acts interested in playing a more intimate club.
Like the Chop Suey before it, food won’t be part of the recipe inside the new club. Rettig said she’s looking into having a food truck parked outside for late night snacks.
Portland punk band Dead Moon will be officially christening the new Chop Suey stage with a sold out show Friday night. Ecklund’s plan is to have shows booked Thursday-Sunday. On nights with no show, the venue will still have two bar areas for you to choose from.
In December, CHS broke the news that Rettig and Carnes were working on a deal to take over the club. Since it opened in 2002, Chop Suey has become something of a defining music venue for Capitol Hill. The club’s original trio of owners — Wade Weigel, Jeff O’Felt, and Linda Derschang — are now well known names in the annals of Capitol Hill. They overhauled what had been a punk venue and gave it what the Seattle Times called a “swank rock” feel — a “front-of-the-club lounge, with leopard carpet, Chinese lanterns, cocktail tables and a wrap-around bench.”
In 2009, the club was purchased by the same ownership as K’s Dream, a live music venue in Tokyo. The Chop Suey club business was on the market for just under $100,000 last summer as building owner Scott Shapiro said he hoped a new musically-inclined tenant would emerge.
According to Rettig, Chop Suey’s last chapter was nearly sealed after the partners bought the business when a developer aggressively tried to buy the trio out of its lease. “We couldn’t do it,” Rettig said. “It would’ve felt like we were selling our souls.”
You can learn more at chopsuey.com.