Nightlife United

Club owners and employees rally to form Seattle Nightlife and Music Association.

A weekly distillation of musical goings-on, local and otherwise.

There's a telling moment in the movie Hype! (the 1996 document of grunge's rise and fall), in which Sub Pop co-founder Jon Poneman mentions he should be announcing his bid for mayor of Seattle. Though Poneman says this with a wide grin, there is truth in his statement. Big businesses like Microsoft and Starbucks may have been hiring in the '90s, but that's not why young people flocked to Seattle: They moved here because of the music.

Now, Mayor Greg Nickels' conservative nightlife proposal threatens the vitality of Seattle's club scene (for details, see last week's Barstool Blues.

"Nightlife is important to a lot of people," says El Chupacabra co-owner James Hardy. "Especially to young professionals who are fresh out of college and looking to relocate to a certain city." That holds true for nearly every person I've met since moving to Seattle, the countless twentysomethings (and thirtysomethings) who first heard of Seattle because they saw Nirvana on MTV. (Heck, in 1990, my friend and I had to break out a road atlas to know where all the fuss was coming from.)

In order to protect our city's renowned club scene, Hardy and several other bar, restaurant, and club owners, have banded together in the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association (SNMA), an organization that recognizes the importance of Seattle club life in terms of its effect on the city's economic and cultural development. Though the organization was set to became official this past Monday, Hardy says it is already 40 members strong and growing.

"I think a lot of club, restaurant, and bar owners had kicked the idea around of starting an organization like this," says Hardy. "But it wasn't until the city decided to start using more diverse tactics for dealing with clubs that it got more momentum behind it."

Among the top priorities for the SNMA is making recommendations to the city for re-evaluating the mayor's nightlife proposal; then it plans to address the pressures facing three choice clubs, Capitol Hill's Redwood and Tango, and Greenwood's El Chupacabra, all of which are in high-density areas and have fallen under scrutiny by the Department of Urban Planning.

"We intend to be around for a long time," Hardy insists of SNMA. "Even after the whole nightlife proposal thing has gone through and we've made our recommendations and tried to make as many proactive changes both for neighbors and club owners, we'll be working on a lot of other things."

Much like Poneman, Hardy is keenly aware of how Seattle's nightlife gave this city an international name. "It's like San Francisco and Silicon Valley during the high-tech boom," he says. "There's a reason people wanted to move there, because it was an exciting and dynamic place to live. That makes people want to move there and find a job. If we can get a really diverse and exciting nightlife scene going in Seattle, that's gonna help Seattle's economic development and attract more people to the city"—people who won't have to turn to Rand McNally to find out where this place is.

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