From The Ganja Mom to Capitol Hill’s new queen of clubs? Rachel Keith is a long way from creating anything like Linda Derschang’s empire just yet but with her summer takeover of The Baltic Room, she’s proud to at least be following in a few of Derschang’s earliest dance steps.
Keith purchased the Baltic, the Pine dance club Derschang first opened as a piano bar in 1997, this summer and celebrated a grand reopening last month.
“What’s the Baltic Room?,” Keith asked earlier this year as she was searching through listings for an available club. “My husband and I have always been in the nightlife scene. I decided to go check it out.”
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Keith tells CHS she rose through the ranks and ultimately became manager of Mary Jane, an Eastside — and Keith emphasizes, woman-owned — pot shop in Kirkland. Ready for a new challenge, she began shopping for clubs and found the Baltic Room on the market. Its history and Derschang’s place as a woman founder helped convince her to take the plunge.
In early 2018, CHS reported on the Baltic switching hands after longtime owner Jason Brotman decided to part ways with the lower Pike/Pine club. That new ownership, it turned out, would be temporary.
First opened in 1997 by Derschang as — the legend goes — a piano bar, the space was originally home to disco hall Kid Mohair, designed, owned, and operated by the Klebeck brothers who went on to Top Pot doughnut and Sun Liquor booze fame. Derschang has described the Klebeck-designed space as one of the most beautiful in Seattle when she took it over at the start of the city’s long, tech-driven economic boom.
But the Baltic Room has aged and gone through some challenging times. Keith said her first priority was to clean the place up and put some gloss back on the old club. She also has prioritized bartenders and security with a focus on safety and has added efforts like bathroom attendants “to make sure everyone is safe,” she said.
Any change in club ownership also comes with some drama around programming. In the Baltic’s case, they’ve dropped a popular “drum n bass” night from the schedule. “The Baltic Room is a hip hop, top 40s club,” Keith said. It operates a three night schedule — Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
So far, Keith says her career in cannabis has had plenty of overlap with being a club owner. Most advantageous? Her experience dealing with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.
But the secret to the Baltic Room’s continued success won’t have anything to do with that. Keith says the business is all about the people who host the party — the bartenders and security staff.
“They are the face of the company,” Keith said. “The most positive part.”
The Baltic Room is 21+ and located at 1207 Pine. You can learn more at balticroom.com.