We broke the news last night that it appeared the name of the new venue taking over the former Purr Cocktail Lounge space at 1518 11th Ave was going to be “Queer Bar” and that the word we heard on the street that it was going to be owned by the Guild Seattle group who already own several major food/drink establishments on Capitol Hill. Signage quickly appeared in Purr’s windows indicating “Queer Bar” was coming this fall.
Today we have clarification and confirmation. QUEER BAR now has a website and they’ve confirmed to the Capitol Hill Times blog that the new owner is JOEY BURGESS, a partner in the Guild Seattle company that owns Big Mario’s Pizza and the Lost Lake diner with partners Jason Lajeunesse and Dave Meinert. The trio also own Grim’s the cocktail lounge two doors down from the Purr location that was created and formerly owned by Laura Olson’s Pterodactyl Group.
But it seems Queer Bar will be solely owned by Burgess, an out gay man who has become quite active in Seattle’s LGBTQ community in the last couple years. He currently sits on the board at Three Dollar Bill Cinema who produce Seattle’s LGBTQ film festivals TWIST in the fall and Translations in the spring. Per the CH Times’ post, Burgess states that programming and designs for Queer Bar have already begun and the new space will be designed by his husband/partner Murf Hall.
The CH Times’ post (by Brandon Macz) also raised eyebrows for including an odd quote from Matt Basta, the landlord who owns the building.
Roberts told KIRO 7 she was relocating due to a 60 percent increase in rent, from $14,000 to nearly $24,000, which property owner Matt Basta said isn’t true.
“I wish I could get that kind of rent,” Basta said, adding the actual rent he would have charged was $14,000. He provided Roberts with an additional five-year extension back in 2012. “I told her when I did that that it would go up to the fair-market rate (afterward).”
Basta’s remarks contradict Purr owner Barbie Roberts’ statement about her reason for moving Purr to a new location in Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood. We asked her to comment on Basta’s response and she sent us the following:
“They’ve obviously been planning this for quite a while which says a lot about our reasons for moving. Truth always comes out. The information regarding our rent was falsely printed. As for Queer Bar, I wish them luck on their business, but I feel there’s a right way and a wrong way for acquiring a space.
Interesting choice for the name, I have my own personal feelings about that one.
All that aside, we are now focused on our new space and excited about our progress.”
-Barbie Roberts, Purr Owner
Since elements of the Purr/Basta/Queer Bar saga sound eerily similar to the story behind the 2014 closure of popular gay lounge, LOBBY BAR located around the corner and down the street from the Purr location at 916 East Pike Street, we reached out to Paul Villa who owned the bar with his partner Curtis Bigelow from 2009 to 2014. Their landlord declined to renew their lease on the space and told the duo that he had a new tenant already set up to take over. But, something apparently went wrong because that space sat empty for the next two years and was only recently leased. Paul Villa responded to our request for a comment with this statement:
““We completely empathize with Barbie. It brings back the frustration and anger we felt when our lease wasn’t extended. Without knowing the full details, this current situation sounds very familiar to us, with similar “behind the scenes” dealings between a landlord and a larger business group which resulted in Lobby’s premature closure.”
-Paul Villa, former co-owner Lobby Bar
And, Barbie Roberts’ comment about the choice for “Queer Bar” for the name of the new bar does raise an interesting debate. For many lgbtq people, “queer” is still considered a slur word and many older people in the gay community find it unacceptable. It’s also surmised that the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board might have issues about issuing a license to a bar with a problematic name. And, some media/social media outlets are cautious about using the word “queer” based on objections raised by some people.
We’ve reached out to Queer Bar for an interview.
We’re also investigating a story about ANOTHER Seattle Capitol Hill gay bar that is apparently changing ownership this fall…and, it appears that some of the same names involved in the Purr/Queer Bar story will be involved in this second takeover of a long established gay bar.
More to come.