Break-ins and squatters have decimated the space home to Capitol Hill dance club and iconic Seattle LGBTQ venue Neighbours, shuttered for months under COVID-19 restrictions.
“After 9 years in Vancouver and 38 years in Seattle, Neighbours may have to close their doors,” performer Roxy Doll writes in a fundraiser plea launched to help the nightclub. “COVID-19 is one thing, but to have to replace and rebuild everything on top of being shut down for who knows how much longer. I don’t know if they are going to make it.”
The goal, Doll tells CHS, is to raise enough so that Neighbours can reopen again when restrictions are relaxed and to give any extra to a charity to help others. You can give here.
But that day is currently a long way away — made even more distant by a mix of brazen and desperate actions. People breaking in cut through the fire door and even a walk-in freezer door at one point. The sound systems, all alcohol, lighting equipment, and all the cameras have been stolen, Doll said. The club has ended up filled with human waste, needles, and trash dragged in from outside. The floor and walls have been spray painted and tagged. Someone cut holes in the walls looking for copper pipes.
The performer has taken on the role of clean-up manager to help the club where she has been performing for years while the club’s owner Moustafa “Moe” Elassiouti is in Egypt due to COVID-19.
Neighbours is not alone. CHS is also gathering information on a nearby office building left empty by the restrictions that also suffered a major break-in and squat situation. By the time police acted to clear that building this month, it was trashed inside and filled with left-behind high end items including a large Apple monitor and piles of electronics.
Doll says police also didn’t do much to stop what was happening at Neighbours as the first break-in came the night of a July protest march. Over the months, Doll says police were called several times. “They just tell them to leave,” Doll said. “Not doing much about it or caring much.”
Word spread about the severity of the break-ins and squatting at Neighbours this fall after the situation worsened through summer. Egan Orion of the Broadway Business Improvement Association says his organization learned about the situation in late October as it added to an already bleak landscape for the neighborhood’s LGBTQ nightlife scene.
“Every bar and nightclub is on life support,” Orion said.
The Seattle Gay News tells CHS it is also planning to help support the Neighbours fundraiser.
Another neighborhood icon got a boost through a community fundraiser during the pandemic. E Pike’s Wildrose raised more than $50,000 to help it stay afloat. Meanwhile, another legendary Hill gay bar The Cuff found new ownership with neighborhood nightlife entrepreneur Joey Burgess to start 2020.
The Neighbours property owned by Elassiouti remains for sale — CHS reported on the $6.9 million price tag placed on the property in January 2019. It was relisted last month for $5.75 million. Up the block, development of The Eldridge, an eight-story affordable housing project focused on LGBTQ+ elders, is moving forward with the city currently working through the demolition permit on the preservation-focused project.
Even if the Neighbours property somehow sells during the pandemic, the club could be in place for years to come. But only if people step up to help, Doll says.
“Once COVID restrictions lift, Neighbours will most likely be the only gay club standing,” Doll says, “and hopefully ready to open — If we get enough help.”
You can give to help Neighbours via GoFundMe here.
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