For years, the now-vacant building at 16743 Aurora Ave. N. in Shoreline was the cornerstone of a criminal enterprise.
Formerly Sugar’s nightclub, the building was once a strip club, a haven for prostitution and the front of a racketeering operation owned by the notorious Colacurcio family.
But, now a local church has put the building on the road to redemption — five years after the indictment of its former owners
Members of the Bethany Community Church took out a five-year lease on the former strip club last month with the option to renew. They plan to reopen the building early this fall as offices and a church-run community center, according to lead Pastor Scott Sund.
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“We were looking for a permanent home where we could lead worship services, when we found this location,” Sund said. “We realized it wasn’t a traditional space to be run by a church, but it just kept coming back to us, and we saw an opportunity to create something better for the community.”
Though the building will not be a place of worship, Sund said it will house a church-run community center that will offer tutoring, social events and a coffeehouse for the neighborhood.
“When we arrived, this was a real place of darkness,” Sund said. “We hope we can bring a sense of light to the community in its place.”
Sugar’s closed in 2010 at the conclusion of a police and FBI investigation that included raids, wiretaps and bugs secretly installed at the offices of the Colacurcio family.
Frank Colacurcio Sr. and his son Frank Jr. and four close associates were indicted in 2009 for conspiring to use their four Western Washington clubs as fronts for prostitution and money laundering.
The government seized the properties, including Sugar’s, in 2010. The Shoreline building was sold at auction to a Seattle-area family in 2011 and has remained vacant ever since, untouched since its days of dark VIP rooms and lap dances.
Sund said the building’s owner turned down several other lease offers that “were going to use the space in a similar way to Sugar’s” before agreeing to lease the space to Bethany Church.
Church volunteers began to remove all signs of the building’s past as soon as they entered the space the day before Easter.
“It was in really bad shape,” Sund said. “They left in such a hurry they left old milk in the fridge. The air even still smelled like thick smoke.”
On that first day in the building, the volunteers prayed both for Sugar’s past and for the future the church would try to build in its place.
“There were a few reminders of what was there before,” Sund said. “Like in the DJ booth there were girls’ names and the songs they were going to dance to. That is so heartbreaking. People make jokes about the mirrors and the poles, but the story is a tragic one to us.”
Bethany volunteers have already begun converting the space by pulling up the bright red carpeting and removing mirrors from the walls.
“We don’t want to focus on the past,” Sund said. “We hope to fill it now with songs and prayers and joy.”
Erin Heffernan can be reached at email@example.com or 206-464-3249.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.