Lumberyard Bar on track to open this spring in White Center
By Patrick Robinson
When the arsonist set fire to the much loved Lumberyard Bar in White Center last July 5 there was no way to know what it would come to mean. White Center has suffered through years of neglect and earned a reputation far uglier than the people and businesses there deserve. In fact they consistently rise in support of one another and always in a spirit of acceptance and empathy. Now the Lumberyard, which is LGBTQ+ friendly, is in the process of rebuilding, directly across from their former location at 9630 16th Ave SW.
The most current forecast is for an opening in late Spring, "Before Pride," said the owner Nathan Adams.
That would mean, if permitting goes smoothly and his 8 to 12 week construction process gets underway, The Lumberyard will open prior to June 20, which is the beginning of Seattle Gay Pride week.
The new space is 4600 sq.feet, vs the 1900 sq. feet in the previous location and that means they can accommodate more customers up to 184 Adams said.
There will be two sides to the bar with the first being modeled after the original Lumberyard while the space to the south will be the "Loading Dock" and will serve as a dance, performance and event space. "Probably not live music but DJ's and drag queens. so drag shows. We will have Dolly Madison coming back and and then Old Witch will be here. She and I were working on some stuff before we burned down."
The spaces have served in the past as a 10 Cent store, a bank and an adult video store. In fact the days when it was a bank are revealed by the vault area in the back of the Loading Dock space with concrete walls well over a foot thick.
The food will be much the same but this time around there will be no smoker so smoked meats are not part of the plan. "The Cuban sandwich will be back and we're going to do brisket sandwiches. I'm playing with an Italian Beef sandwich that I'm liking a lot and we are looking at some different appetizers. Everything will be made from scratch just like we used to."
In the immediate aftermath of the fire The Lumberyard put up a GoFundMe page. Within 5 days it had generated well over $100,000 in donations. The speed and amount of support was something of a pleasant surprise Adams said.
"It is and was amazing. It's still one of those things that when we stop and we sit down and you just it just catches you and you're just like you know it's one of the reasons why we were determined to come back to the neighborhood, you know. We could have done this a whole different way and found a place that was already built out but it would not have been in the neighborhood. And after the outpouring of love and support from the community, we're like, no, you've got it. We got to stay here and we got to stay as close to the original as we possibly can. Because, you know, it's the main point is, it's a community. And it's a community that this over this last year has seen a lot of loss.
it goes back to what this neighborhood really does well in that it has more of a sense of neighborhood and more of a sense of community. No matter who you are. Whatever your race, your religion, your sexuality, It doesn't matter. It just all comes from a place of accepting everyone."
There was also a White Center Block Party held in August to benefit the seven businesses who were severely damaged. That event raised more than $20,000.
Worth noting is that the fund to assist the other victims of the devastating fire is still active and has 325 donations at $18,660 of the $25,000 goal. You can contribute here.
About the fire, the investigation is moving slowly but steadily Adams reports. "They're still working their leads and they still have a couple more leads that they've come up with, but I've not heard anything. I talked to (King County Arson Investigator) Scott Case just a couple of weeks ago. He was just bringing me up to speed where everything was, so they're still working on some of the warrants that they had to be able to get information from some of the bigger companies, tech companies and stuff about what cell phones were in the area at the time of the fire and stuff like that, so we can search search some of those things out.
Those companies are real picky. They don't give up information unless it's profitable to them."
King County has plans through their recently released public review draft of the North Highline Community Service Area Sub Area Plan that call for increased housing density in the area surrounding the White Center business district. The 122 page plan is complex and detailed and as such has an accompanying Readers Guide here.
For Adams the plan seems problematic since the plan calls for some restrictive aspects.
"So for like the space across the street. (a former nightclub with rooms on the second floor) The landlord wanted to actually turn it into like an upscale Airbnb on the upper floors. But to do that King County required him is requiring him to actually add parking. Well, how do you add parking? Right, yeah, exactly so it's sort of the same with with where like the strip of buildings that happened with our fire. They could probably salvage parts of them. Our building is definitely not salvageable, but now they have to go back and bring it because once you open a wall, everything has to come up to the current code.
So it's not something that can be done. And so therefore what are you gonna do? Sit there and just let the building sit empty. And if you're going to make the improvements, then you've got to start looking at other things you can do to get your money back out of it faster. I mean landlords are landlords and there's a reason behind commercial real estate."
The Lumberyard as a gathering place and a home to events for the LGBTQ+ community and beyond meant a lot to a lot of people. Adams thinks the sense of belonging can be recreated. "I think if you are always coming from that space where you create community and wanting to help support a community then it works out really good, and you feel good about it. And your staff reads it and they feel good about it and they do the same thing. We still get together about every two months (as long as there isn't a giant outbreak going on) for dinner at my house." That means the majority of the staff will be returning.
That alone is testament to what the Lumberyard has meant to the White Center community, the business community, and the LGBTQ+ community too.