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Union cocktail lounge will bring together Capitol Hill gay bar legends

The Zoe events space will soon go back into motion as gay-friendly lounge Union (Image: King County)

Capitol Hill’s gayborhood will grow back onto a new block as Union, a cocktail lounge serving the gay community, will open in the old Zoe restaurant space at Union and 14th.

The new Union will represent a great coming together of rival legends of the gay bar scene.

Union is backed by gay nightlife veterans Steve Nyman, Nathan Benedict, and Mark Engelmann. According to Nyman, “Union will include elements from the previous bars we have owned and other bars we have all worked. That’s one of the reasons we settled on Union as the name; it’s a union of our ideas and experiences, and we hope it’s also a union of community, bringing people together.”

Nyman and Benedict are the former owners of Inside Passage and Thumper’s. Inside Passage provided Capitol Hill with one of the first sidewalk dining and drinking spaces in Seattle, and Thumper’s opened in 1985 as one of the Hill’s first gay bars, sporting large windows and a log fireplace. Across the street at 15th and Madison, Engelmann managed C.C. Attle’s which was a competitor until Thumper’s closed in October 2006. C.C. Attle’s relocated to 1701 E Olive Way in 2011 and the rivalry was mostly lost to history.

Now, Union’s setup will engender an outgoing atmosphere featuring a bar, a fireplace lounge, and putting Zoe’s patio back into motion. Union will also be within walking distance from a collection of Capitol Hill gay bars, “sustaining the gayborhood.”

The patio should be popular (Image: Zoe Events)

After closing down Thumper’s, Nyman says he and Benedict enjoyed retirement. In 2014, Benedict went back to work in commercial real estate. Now they are ready to get back into the nightlife industry. “Our love for the business made us get back into it, along with our enjoyment of gay bars and Capitol Hill, and desire to help the gayborhood grow,” Nyman said.

In 2016, CHS reported on the transition of Belltown transplant Zoe into an events space as owners Heather and Scott Staples said the restaurant business was hampered by ongoing construction in the area. Preceding their exit from 14th and Union, the couple also sold Pike/Pine’s Quinn’s and Sole Repair to new ownership earlier this year.

The corner Union will call home is also home to Oola Distillery.

Union’s opening, meanwhile, will follow more gayborhood investment with 2017’s opening of Queer/Bar on 11th Ave.

Union does not have a set opening date yet, but since the space has stayed active as a restaurant and event space, Nyman believes a remodel could come together quickly and the lounge could be opening on the Hill soon.

Union will be located at 1318 E Union.

Correction: CHS mistakenly identified the wrong partner as being involved in commercial real estate. Benedict is the man in real estate, not Nyman. Sorry for the error!

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14 thoughts on “Union cocktail lounge will bring together Capitol Hill gay bar legends

  1. This is great news. And I hope it’s followed by an article about how Pike Pine is an exciting expanding not shrinking gay neighborhood. Two high profile New gay bars in a year with Queer Bar and now Union. The news of the death of a gay neighborhood has been highly exaggerated by the media.

    • A neighborhood isn’t solely about the businesses there but the people. Fact is the demographics show there is a smaller percent of LGBTQ people on the Hill than in past years, so for some Capitol Hill is a destination not a home. I am not against this place opening, just putting it in perspective. What will also be relevant are the prices of the products within, the diversity (or lack thereof) of the crowd it attracts, and whether or not the business will success or not at all. As for the Thumpers owner coming back, I would hope this place would have a piano bar element and singers as Thumpers used to.

      • Were the old places ever really all that diverse? That’s not how I remember them.

        I don’t deny the Hill has changed, but let’s not create a mythical 80s/90s where the queer community was perfectly united.

        I love this space. It seems like it will fill some of the void left by the decline and closure of the Broadway Grill.

    • @moving on : Capitol Hill and many of its venues had a more economically diverse clientele and there just was a larger percent of people in the neighborhood who were LGBT identified compared to now. I am referencing the ’90s when I moved here. I absolutely don’t think, nor did I experience, some utopia of diversity in specific bars or other locations. I’m just saying that bars don’t exist in a vacuum and there is nothing magical about Capitol Hill that will automatically make this new bar live up to its stated goal. It’s also unclear who the clientele will end up being at this new bar, what if any community orgs/lgbt sports related teams/community events/food choices/prices/where it’s spending advertising money, etc. will happen. I hope they succeed.

  2. So excited for this! Loud dance bars don’t work for me for all kinds of reasons. Hanging on a patio or by a fireplace…that I can do!!!!

  3. Awesome! Great to see another gay bar open after the momentum seemed to be all of them going straight or closing. Hopefully it won’t be insufferable like Queer Bar.

  4. It would be great if it didn’t have the cliche gay bar stuff like nudes on the wall and innuendo puns (gay doesn’t equal risque to many of us in the LGBT community) and music videos.

  5. This is exactly what we need! There is a void left after Lobby closed for a gay cocktail bar and this one will have a fabulous patio! Perfect location as well.

  6. Thumpers was the site of our first date. We celebrate twenty years in June.
    We’re looking forward to Union.

  7. From a residential standpoint, Cap Hill is definitely dead as a gayborhood. But it’s still a nightlife center, ergo you’ll have some gay bars around.

    Good news, in any case.

  8. I remember Thumpers. It was among my favourite parts of Capitol Hill I used to either take the bus, or I’d drive from Kirkland, where I lived at the time, to eat, or hang out and talk to the people who worked there. I’d love to see Thumpers back again, even if it’s at a different location.

  9. Hi
    Where it is next to on union st????are you by the houses of neighbors ????what the address ??does it have a sign says Union bar sign outside in front of the bar where we can find the bar easy or it is hard to find it????