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Under pressure from the city, costs, and neighbors, Capitol Hill Block Party announces 2019 lineup

(Image: Capitol Hill Block Party)

Seattle’s alt-weeklies are dead but Capitol Hill Block Party will live on in 2019. With an earlier than ever and quieter announcement than in past years, producers of the annual three-day music festival in the streets of Capitol Hill announced the 2019 full lineup Tuesday morning for the 23rd edition of the signature Pike/Pine event that is facing yet another new wave of criticism from the business community outside the festival’s fences.

“Providing a platform where local artists can continue to grow and organizations benefit from the additional exposure is an important way to unify the local community and preserve our fiercely independent and artistic nature,” producer and Neumos co-owner Jason Lajeunesse said in the announcement of the 2019 lineup.

Capitol Hill Block Party 2019

The July 19th through July 21st festival will be headlined this year by “bass beacon” RL Grime, electro-pop duo Phantogram, and singer-rapper-flautist Lizzo. Single day, two day, three day and VIP passes go on sale Tuesday morning. Ticket prices were not included in the lineup announcement.

The 2019 lineup announcement, by the way, was not made on air via KEXP as it has in past years. KEXP’s John Richards, Amy Richards, Leigh Sims, Steven Severin of Neumos announced details Monday of their coming soon new Capitol Hill vinyl bar Life on Mars.

In late 2018, CHS reported that officials said that after the 2019 edition of the Block Party, the city would “assess the viability of this event in this neighborhood” in response to concerns.

“It is clear the Capitol Hill Block Party is economically beneficial to some Capitol Hill businesses, and culturally beneficial to the Capitol Hill neighborhood and Seattle,” Chris Swenson, who leads the city’s Special Events planning process, said in a statement sent to CHS in December. “It is also clear through feedback from Capitol Hill businesses and residents that the Capitol Hill Block Party is negatively economically impactful to other businesses and residents, and presents significant access and operations impacts to neighborhood businesses and residents.”

In an organizing meeting with city departments for the 2019 Capitol Hill Block Party, officials also discussed issues over funding more police officers inside the gates of the festival: “Additional personal (sic) is needed for inside of the venue; Due to the increase of activity in the neighborhood, additional staffing is needed outside of the venue,” the meeting minutes read. The restricts cost increases for SPD fees to 10% maximum per year, however, an amount inadequate to cover the kind of large increase SPD said it needs for the event.

(Image: Capitol Hill Block Party)

Prior to 2016, the city’s special event permit fees were based on the number of expected participants in each event. In 2016, the Special Events Ordinance was updated to include an hourly fee for each SPD officer assigned directly to events for traffic control or on-site security. The fee does not bill event organizers for optional “up staffing” that may be performed by SPD Precincts. This policy is the same for stadium or large private events, where general officer “up staffing” to the neighborhood are not billed to the event organizers, the representative tells CHS.


Seattle Police and Seattle Fire fees have become a significant cost issue for major events like Block Party in Seattle and officials have said they are looking at ways to keep costs down.

For the 2019 Block Party, the city is requiring producers to make “several physical immediate improvements” including “streamlining access for employees and residents in and around the event perimeter” and “adjusting placement of portapotties and other operational elements to be less impactful to businesses and residents.” It will also require security staffing to be trained “to better support business and residential access.”

In addition to issues with the city, Block Party producers must also manage the event’s relationships with nearby businesses and residents. Meetings have been held to try to smooth over issues around lost business, noise, and lack of access during the event.

Tracy Taylor of Elliott Bay Book Company and others have said the past communication with the event organizers — especially former producer Dave Meinert — were antagonistic and threatening.

Meinert, the longtime face of Block Party, stepped aside when Lajeunesse took over the festival in 2012. This summer, he was forced to sell his stake in a handful of Pike/Pine businesses in the wake of sexual misconduct and rape accusations.

After a particularly challenging 2010 event for some local businesses, city officials asked Block Party organizers to work more closely local business owners and neighborhood residents. In 2011, Block Party reps including then-producer Meinert showed support from “51 of 56 businesses in the area” in convincing the city to allow Block Party to add a lucrative third day of acts to its bill. This July, the 22nd year of the Block Party again drew 10,000 per day to the festival held on the streets around the E Pike main stage at Broadway. In 2016, the Block Party marked 20(ish) years on E Pike. 2018’s CHBP single-day tickets were $80 each counting fees. UPDATE: Single-day tickets are $85 counting fees this year.

A tax-exempt nonprofit associated with Block Party does around $20,000 in charitable giving per year. According to the most recent tax records available from 2016, it produced about $123,000 in revenue through hosting an unspecified venue at Block Party: In 2016, the nonprofit paid out $72, 000 in salary — Lajeunesse and partner Mike McConnell are not compensated for their roles as governors of the organization, according to state records —  and another $24,000 in costs. After the $20,000 in donations, it netted just over $6,000 for the year. You can read more about the nonprofit on its site at

Part of the $20,000 in giving goes to the Block Party’s annual support of the Capitol Hill Art Walk.

In 2019, Capitol Hill Block Party producers say they will pledge to match donations to raise a total of $5,000 for four nonprofit partners: Jubilee Women’s Center, The Vera Project, Artists for Progress, and Lifelong.

Capitol Hill Block Party 2019 will also include “free community events and activities,” including a CHBP artist panel with Q&A, courtyard DJs at Chophouse Row, poster and photo shows, and with plans to activate Cal Anderson park on both Saturday and Sunday for outdoor yoga, health and wellness activities, the return of 35th North’s Battle on the Block Skate Competition, and a Bat N’ Rouge fundraising softball game.

“Every year we look for new ways to celebrate the diversity of Seattle’s culture and add value to the many great local businesses in the neighborhood and city,” Block Party’s associate producer Kate Harris said in Tuesday’s announcement.

You can learn more at


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3 years ago

That is not a lineup you pay $85 a day for. It’s not even a lineup you might be $40 for. A far cry from the headliners in years past. Seems like this event is dying.

3 years ago

This strikes me as an awful lot of disruption and drama for a paltry $20,000 in charity donations. If it were $200,000 or $2 million, maybe it would be worth it. Perhaps it’s time to radically rethink this event: How about a smaller-scale, one or two day festival with unsigned Capitol Hill area (broadly defined) musicians only, who are playing mainly for the exposure. No obstructive high fencing and no big-money headliners whatsoever. Entrance could be by donation (I’m thinking $10 minimum like Folklife, no free in-and-out) with the musicians getting a few hundred bucks each and all the remaining net proceeds going to charity. Or hey, make the musicians the charity and give them all of it. That would be a “block party” in more than name, and it would probably raise more money. Of course the “downside” is no one would make bank off of it, which is why I don’t expect it to happen.

3 years ago

Just $20,000 for charities!? And with all that disruption and exclusivity!? SMHing so hard right now.

Maybe call Pearl Jam next time…they raised $11 million for Seattle.

3 years ago

Weak sauce.