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‘Neighborhood institution’ The Cuff now part of Capitol Hill Queer/Bar family

(Image: The Cuff)

Capitol Hill’s complex of leather, fetish, and kink for more than 25 years, The Cuff has new owners and is now part of a family of venues dedicated to neighborhood LGBTQ nightlife and culture.

Joey Burgess, owner of Pike/Pine’s Queer/Bar, tell CHS he purchased the 13th Ave venue and took over just in time for New Year’s with an eye toward preserving the “neighborhood institution” and putting The Cuff “back in queer ownership.”

“It’s a huge venue with a rad patio and awesome staff. Some people have been here for decades. We’re looking to preserve all that,” Burgess said.

Burgess and husband Murf Hall are adding the Capitol Hill queer favorite to their growing family of Pike/Pine venues. Queer/Bar debuted in October 2017 and cut ties with Dave Meinert a year later in the wake of the rape accusations against him. The family also includes the Grimm’s nightclub. Burgess, meanwhile, also chairs the board convened for the GSBA’s Capitol Hill Business Alliance small business effort and is one of the Capitol Hill representatives on Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Small Business Advisory Council.

Burgess says he and Hall have also been busy with their own family. Their little girl is now five months old.

The Cuff has a few years on her.

A history of the club — the source since lost to Internet decay — credits the 1993 birth of The Cuff to “Mr. Tim F. and Mr. Scott R.” who wanted to provide “a positive social outlet for people who were into Leather, Levi’s and Uniforms.”

“After an exhaustive search throughout the Capitol Hill area, the present bar location was selected based upon the criteria that Tim and Scott had developed as important requirements for a bars success,” the legend goes. “Most people who viewed the space early on all walked away with the same basic statement that the space would never work. Were they ever wrong.”

Randy Fields purchased The Cuff in 2004 while the investors Burgess purchased from came along and put their money into the club in 2013.

That year, Jeff Hennes, the long-time head of security for The Cuff who retired after 20 years there to concentrate full-time on his E Pike shop Doghouse Leathers, told CHS the concept began as a “Leather/Uniform/Fetish” tavern. After five years, The Cuff would expand into the rest of its building with a “restaurant, dance floor and patio.”

Burgess

“The focus of the Cuff is to provide a safe space that caters to an masculine energy and serves as the community living room,” Hennes said. You can read more of his brief history of The Cuff here.

Hennes, unsurprisingly, was also in the middle of things for The Cuff’s next chapter of history. Burgess says it was the leather shop owner who told him about the opportunity a few weeks ago and that a deal came together quickly.

Now, Burgess says his intent is to focus on the business and marketing side of things as he invests in the next 20 years at The Cuff. Somehow the corner has avoided the sweeping waves of development change and Burgess says he has secured a longterm agreement with the family trust that continues to hold the property. Meanwhile, the neighborhood spent part of 2019 worrying about the building home to Neighbours and the block including leather bar The Eagle hitting the market. UPDATE: Management at Neighbours let us know the building hasn’t sold but is off the market as the club enters its 39th year — making it the longest running LGBTQ bar in Seattle.

With multiple venues all within a few blocks, Burgess says taking over The Cuff is about more than operational and business efficiencies.

“Capitol Hill is my neighborhood,” he said. “It’s definitely home. It’s about preserving queer spaces. And spaces for everyone.”

The Cuff is located at 1533 13th Ave. You can learn more at cuffcomplex.com.


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13 thoughts on “‘Neighborhood institution’ The Cuff now part of Capitol Hill Queer/Bar family

  1. Doghouse Leathers started 14 years (Jan 2006) as an weekend outpost inside The Cuff. It was located in one of the Dance Bar bathrooms that measured 5ft x 7ft before moving upstairs next to coat check. We have grown just a bit…

    A couple of Cuff History points. That big disco ball has been spinning in Seattle Gay Bars since 1978 First at the Boren Street Disco / CityBeat / Timberline Spirits (both locations) before moving to The Cuff. The Lion’s Pub artwork on display in the front bar used to hang back in the 80’s at Daddy’s Video Bar downtown on Stewart where the Federal Courthouse is now. It has been hanging at The Cuff since the Cuff opened on March 23rd 1993.

  2. In my 23 years in Seattle, I went to the Cuff only a few times. It’s not really my scene. However, I’m so glad it exists and hope it stays the same. Best of luck to the new owners and a world of thanks to the founders, previous owners, and customers to keep it going strong.

  3. Amazon owns downtown, and now one organization will own where we play in Capital Hill? The history of monopolies suggests this won’t end well.

    • Huh? I’ll take a “monopoly” of gay, LOCAL (as in Capitol Hill) industry specialists over straight people from Bellevue any day.

      Congratulations, Cuff. Looking forward to seeing you serve the community for many years to come.

      • Most gay people do not live on Capitol Hill anymore. My gay friends live in Everett, Puyallup, Bellevue, Bothell, Kirkland, other Seattle neighbourhoods and more. Since gentrification took hold of Seattle, we are now spread out. I soon will be be moving to the Eastside of Lake Washington when I start my new job over there.

  4. I liked the Cuff when I first moved here. Then I went once after the previous owner took over, and this is what happened:

    – paid $5 cover
    – bought two scotch and sodas, spent another $20ish
    – dance a lot
    – felt a bit dehydrated and asked the bartender for a glass of water
    – was told that the owner said they can’t give out free water anymore, I had to buy a $3 bottled water
    – I said that I was a regular customer and dehydrated and I didn’t want to see a bottle wasted unnecessarily and I had already paid about $25 to their establishment that evening alone, were they really outright refusing to serve me a glass of water?
    – He said yup, too bad, and turned to the next customer.

    Haven’t been back since. Hopefully the new owners will be more inclined to see their customers as human beings and not just money sources.

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