One of Seattle's coolest nightclubs, located at 722 E. Pike St., will close Nov. 30, unless a buyer is found.
Capitol Hill nightclub The War Room is for sale, says owner Marcus Lalario.
On the Northwest corner of East Pike Street and Harvard Avenue, it’s considered one of the city’s coolest clubs, the one with wood slats on the outside and floor-to-ceiling panels by Shepard Fairey (the artist who made the famous red-and-blue Obama poster); it’s a place where it’s not unusual to see a line out the door and around the block.
The War Room opened in 2005. Originally known for underground nights when disc jockeys played hip-hop and drum ‘n’ bass music, it arced into the mainstream over the years, attracting not just music fans or people looking to dance, but anyone wanting to be associated with hipness. Just before he was elected Seattle mayor, Mike McGinn made a public appearance at a War Room concert.
Lalario, 33, and partner Brian Rauschenbach, 45, “were pioneers in the neighborhood,” said Quentin Ertel, owner of the nearby Havana Social Club. “The War Room is The War Room. There’s really nothing else like it.”
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Steven Severin, who operates Moe Bar/Neumo’s, said, “(They’re) leaders in the coolness factor for the city. As cheesy as that sounds, they set the bar for that. Seattle’s a little less great today than it was yesterday.”
But Ertel and Severin also well know the difficulties of running a bar in Seattle.
Lalario said being responsible for drunken people is stressful. He finally learned to turn off his cellphone at night but wakes up every morning dreading a War Room-related voice mail.
He’s also not crazy about the state’s liquor-tax increase, which eats up about 40 cents of his profit on every drink, he estimates. There’s also the expensive prospect of connecting its sprinklers to the city’s water system. The latter is a necessity for all Seattle nightclubs, which are required to have sprinkler systems installed by Dec. 1. Lalario is as concerned about public safety as the next guy but thinks the city should cut nightclub owners a deal.
“It wouldn’t put us out of business, but it’s 60 grand,” he said. “Twenty to connect to the city’s water line.”
Lalario, a concert-promoter-turned-mini-mogul, has been associated with the building at 722 E. Pike St. for a long time.
“I had an all-ages club in there called The Beat Box when I was 19,” he said on the phone. “There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to let it go.”
Lalario and Rauschenbach set the club’s sell-by date at Nov. 30 and the price is negotiable. If nobody buys, Lalario says he’ll keep the space, re-brand it and start something there.
The sale jibes with Lalario’s overall business tack, which has been from nightlife into food. He owns Captain Black’s, a Capitol Hill restaurant/bar; he’s an investor in The Saint, another Capitol Hill restaurant/bar; and he’s part owner of Molly Moon’s ice-cream shops in Capitol Hill and Wallingford.
He recently started a distillery, Batch 206, and will soon open a hamburger restaurant on Capitol Hill, Lil’ Woody’s, a joint venture with former employees of Crémant and Harvest Vine.
Andrew Matson: firstname.lastname@example.org