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‘Last vestiges’ — Fred Capitol Hill art space to close

Citing raised rent, and an uncertain future with new property owners, Fred will close its doors March 8. (Image: Bruce Dugdale)

The Capitol Hill venue born as Fred Wildlife Refuge has announced it will be closing in March

“We’re basically priced out. We had no way of making it make financial sense,” said owner Chris Pink in the announcement made Friday.

The two-story event space is a center for art, performance, and LGBTQ+ happenings and has held a unique space among the bars and clubs on the Hill, mainly because it was neither of those.

Kaleb Dameron, Fred’s event coordinator and the founder and creative director of Beauty Boiz said it was that power as an other space that mattered most.

New Orleans Bounce legend Vockah Redo performing at Fred (Image: Miguel Edwards)

“Something I really loved is that no matter where your home bar loyalties lie, whether it was queer/bar or R Place or Kremwerk or Julia’s or any of that, everyone could put everything aside when they came to Fred,” Dameron told CHS. “And everyone was community when they were at Fred. We don’t have a lot of those places. Naturally there’s that competitive spirit at a lot of the other LGBTQ establishments on the hill, and it’s nice to have a Switzerland in the middle of all that.”

The Fred community knew a change was in the works when Canadian real estate investment and management company Low Tide Properties bought the block last April in a $21 million deal, according to Pink. Fred and other neighboring businesses “had a panic attack when [the sale] happened. Everybody had these horrible expectations, but [Low Tide] came in and were the most generous, sweet, non-pushy. I can’t even tell you how great they have been through the entire process,” said Pink.

So far, changes have been minimal after the sale. The company is planning some construction but, according to city permits, it’s focused on improving the Fred building with a new roof.

The original founder Fred Milkie built the space in the mid 1960s. Milkie was the official  photographer for the Seattle World’s Fair, and a catalog photographer for Nordstrom and Macy’s. Most of his catalog work was shot in the building. After Milkie’s passing, his sons operated the studios for several years before leasing it to Pink, founder of The Can Can Culinary Cabaret and his partner Fae Phalen Pink. Fred debuted in November of 2013. Though the lease was pre-negotiated for 15 years, Pink signed an extension every five years through Market Associates.

Coming up on the last extension, and coinciding with the Low Tide purchase from the Milkie family, Market Associates took advantage of a loophole in the contract to raise the rent twice the market value of commensurate spaces on the Hill, Pink said. Though Fred negotiated a lower rent, it was still an unsustainable amount. The raised rent and uncertainty of what would happen after the completion of their 15 year lease put Fred on shaky ground. “If there was a possibility of longevity, we would have kept going,” Pink noted.

Although in the middle of rebranding Fred Wildlife Refuge to simply Fred, a remodeling project on the horizon, and a robust calendar of events through the rest of the year, calling it off sooner rather than later was the best financial option for Pink. “It’s sad for the Hill,” he said. “I’m bummed. Fred represents some of the last vestiges of the Capitol Hill arts scene, it just feels like, especially on the low Hill, there’s nothing in that realm. I feel like it’s one of the last spots that’s community-oriented as opposed to it just being a club or a 10th and Pike douche party.”

Fred is currently slated to close March 8th. It is slated to host a “Prom Night” themed silent auction to benefit the Capitol Hill Cooperative Preschool the night of March 7th.

You can learn more at fredwildliferefuge.com.


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26 thoughts on “‘Last vestiges’ — Fred Capitol Hill art space to close

  1. Gentrification kills culture……techie scum move in and turn everything into homogenous chain restaurants and boring, uninspiring PoMo buildings.

    Pray every day Amazon tanks and goes bankrupt. I want old Seattle back.

  2. “Citing raised rent, and an uncertain future with new property owners” Landlords and property developers are a cancer in this city sucking everything dry till all thats left are Dentists offices and generic cafes.

  3. Glad it made financial sense for Pink—not so much for those of us who had events booked past March without any warning that their lease might not be renewed.

    Ultimately upset to lose a space that fostered creativity in the community. Been living in this neighborhood for 16 years and getting used to it. But this one stung a little extra.

    • Hey @whatyagonnado we apologize for messing with your plans can’t even tell you how disheartened we are about closing. Unfortunately we were not aware of the terms of the final agreement with new ownership until recently and let all know as soon as we had details. All deposits have already been refunded (for those that had them) and new event spaces found for those needing help. This place has been operating at a loss for years for arts / community sake (intentionally) but with recent changes it became no longer viable. Believe you me we are upset as well and beyond sympathetic to those affected and wish we could could have done more. With the cards we were dealt the only thing we left with was to close responsibly under unfavorable circumstances for all involved. A heartfelt sorry going out to you and anybody else in this same boat. Please don’t hesitate to call us if you need absolutely any assistance in rebooking or any other support we can offer.

      • There are no hard feelings as there’s no “bad guy” In the situation. Just a bummer for me but more importantly our community. Like I said, what ya gonna do? I hope all the Fred folks pull through this and do well.

  4. Complain all you want about Capito Hill losing its “soul.” Here is my question: How many of the commentators here have actually visited and supported Fred’s? My advice…put your money where your mouth is and get out there and support the remains groovy places. They can’t pay their rent without your business.
    Let’s be proactive rather than reactive.

    • I can’t speak to their exact finances of course, but in general there are certainly well-attended, popular spots that still close due to rising rents. Customers are no guarantee of stability. It’s more complicated than that.

  5. The sad thing is that Fred, like the adjacent spaces to the south that have been empty for months – and will soon be completely vacant when my office moves later this month – will simply sit there collecting graffiti and trash without any tenants, because Low Tide has no interest in actually renting them, knowing full well they’ll make an Olympics swimming pool sized profit off them when they’re flipped to a developer who will raze everything including, ironically, the real estate building on the north end of the lot for another bland, cookie-cutter edifice to greed and tastelessness.

  6. Oh for goodness sakes people just let go of the whole “blame Amazon, blame the techies!” Kids go to high school and work hard to get into a college so they can earn a degree and get a good job. These “techies” are actually the people with expendable incomes who are supporting the service industry. Yes, property values have increased and yes taxes have gone up and yes rents have increased…but we live in a capitalist society. It won’t change. The whole country is based on a Capitalist trickle down model…but don’t just blame one group of people or one section of the economy or one group of our society. It is discriminating and discrimination of any type should not be tolerated. By the way, I am not a republican…I am a true blue Democrat who understands the game and has figured out how to play it. I pay my taxes and make sacrifices to donate 20% of my pretax salary to local charities that support local issues.
    Once again…do your part. Adopt a proactive approach rather than a reactive one.
    I have shared my opinion for what it is worth…now I will sit back and prepare to read all of the negative, mean, and spiteful vitriol that is sure to come.

  7. This sucks. I don’t know how we stop it, but we have to figure it out or we’re going to end up like Vancouver and S.F. Seattle, remember what got you to this place. The reason Amazon blossomed here and why all these people moved here. We gotta figure this out fast.

  8. Don’t blame Low Tide. Blame the Milkie family. Just like in the CD. EVERYONE loves to blame the developer for “destroying the neighborhood”. But remember, that can’t happen unless the neighborhood sells to the developer.

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