By Jacklyn Tran
Northwest Asian Weekly
Pressure from the city and state may have contributed to the closing of the War Room, a popular Capitol Hill nightclub, but the contributions that the venue has made to the music and nightlife scene is one that patrons won’t soon forget.
In nearly five years of operation, the War Room separated itself from the rest of the pack, managing to be a space that united diverse people of all backgrounds by hosting fundraisers, benefits, and club nights. It bridged the gap between music genres with popular DJ nights and live performances from a full spectrum of artists. It even made an appearance on the political landscape.
“It was sort of the place to be for anyone, which was so great about it,” said John Balan, a Filipino American frequent patron. “It brought in all types of cultures and crowds and was just a really good place to go … one of the few places where you can go and be yourself. Not many venues in Seattle are without a dress code.
That club brought out every type of person with all genres of music, which is what I’ll miss the most.”
Unfortunately, these positive attributes were not enough to fight against the mounting factors working against it. On Nov. 30, the War Room closed its doors.
“We were thinking of closing the club for quite some time this past year,” said co-owner Brian Rauschenbach, “because of the pressures we have had from the state with having to have a water sprinkler system installed (which costs about $60,000), increases in state liquor costs, and the dance tax that they presented us after a recent audit.”
But owners Rauschenbach, who is half Korean, and Marcus Lalario are more than happy to have had such a long and successful run, especially one ending on such a good note with only fond memories to look back on.
“We have all been to clubs and establishments that have not wanted to have this crowd or that crowd because they might have a prejudice against certain ethnicities or think that certain groups are problematic,” said Rauschenbach.
“We have always wanted to keep the War Room open to all people,” he said, “and [we] have never been afraid to be pigeon-holed as a club that catered to Asians or [a club that] hosted a gay weekly club night.”
The all-inclusive mentality the War Room held also existed in its staff, as the club was managed for years by a female bar and security manager.
The owners’ tagline for their club, “Peace is our profession,” may have been an oxymoron to their business’ name. But the message was one that stayed in line with their overall ideals.
“We used ‘Peace Keeper’ for our security instead of having them wear t-shirts that said ‘Security’ on them, which we thought was too aggressive. [We] didn’t want our patrons to be intimidated by our staff but to feel like they could approach them, just like anyone else,” explained Rauschenbach.
In regard to the most empowering moment during its run, Rauschenbach referred to “the Obama election night party and hosting Mayor-elect McGinn’s election party recently. Politics are an important element for any business person, and this past presidential election, I think, was really important as it brought out millions of non-traditional voters that now see that their votes can affect change nationally and locally.
“Voter turnout for this last mayoral election was the best for a local mayoral race. This tells me that people are starting to pay attention to local politics.” The future of the War Room is still unclear. A buyer could come along and take over the space, or the current owners may decide to re-brand the business into something that removes the dance element.
Regardless of what’s to come, to those who shared nights together on the rooftop deck during a legendary “Yo, Son!” party night, who danced for hours on end to music they hadn’t heard since their younger days while surrounded by the artwork of Shepard Fairey (best known for his iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster), who watched in awe at the b-boys and b-girls exhibiting their moves, who met new friends, who ran into old ones, who celebrated birthdays, who counted the new year down — they know that there will never be another venue quite like the War Room. ♦
Jacklyn Tran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.