Q Capitol Hill Opens in Seattle
by Shaun Knittel
Best Gay Cities Staff Writer
The much anticipated Q Capitol Hill, a 12,000-square-foot dance club in Seattle’s gay neighborhood, experienced a grand opening on September 8 that could only be described as perfect. There was a line around the block, guests were gay and straight alike, and if social networks had anything to say about it, Q is a hit.
The key to Q’s – seriously – grand opening success had little to do with any one person or scene, but everything to do with the aesthetic, a state-of-the-art sound system, and Q’s mantra, “Music is our message.”
Simply put – Q Capitol Hill looks and sounds better than any other club on The Hill … or the entire City for that matter.
The owners installed a custom system from Funktion One and lighting design by SJ Lighting. C Scott Smith, managing partner of Q, promised Seattleites a space that “gets back to basics of a what a club should be about.” According to Smith those basics are the best Dj’s on the planet, playing on the finest sound system, while showcasing emerging local musical talent. However, Smith didn’t stop there. Moving beyond the basics to the must-have’s, he told the gays and straights that Q would be a club that has stunning interior design and lighting, and would provide impeccable service to its customers.
That’s a tall order to fill. Only, Smith and his team nailed it. Q Capitol Hill is exactly as advertised.
Les Sterling, managing editor at the entertainment blog Seattle Gay Scene, called the opening “a smashing success.”
“There were endless comparisons to clubs in new York, London, Chicago and LA all throughout the evening among our group of people,” He wrote in a September 10 blog entry Why Q Works (http://www.seattlegayscene.com/2012/09/why-q-works.html).
While Sterling praised Q’s round bar design, unisex bathrooms, and interior entry queue (which is brilliant in a city like Seattle where it rains more than it shines) he points out that with Q’s “strategic and brilliant lighting” is “purposeful.”
“One of the things that grosses me out faster than just about anything at a club or a bar, is if the walls and ceiling are painting (sic) matte black, and there’s no lighting to speak of,” said Sterling. “If a bar is that dark, it’s because they’re trying to hide their ugly – Q wants you to see EVERYTHING they have to offer.”
There is no denying that Q looks good. Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, an award-winning firm best known recently for their Apple Stores, as well as Seattle City Hall, designed the club. Robert Miller of the Seattle office oversaw the project.
Once inside, customers will find all the things you would expect from a modern night club like a coat check, a mezzanine (overlooking the dance floor and bar), and hot bartenders. But there are a few items that make Q stand out. First and foremost The Bourbon Bar.
Q’s bar program features a vast collection of American bourbons. Smith moved to Seattle in 2003, but is originally from Kentucky where his family has deep bourbon ties. The Bourbon Bar, featured prominently at the frontend of the club (which is actually the back end of the club, although it is closest to Broadway) serves as either a semi-private or private area and can accommodate up to 25 people. It isn’t VIP exactly, (Smith has said of Q, “We want to avoid the elitist attitudes of upscale lounges with separate VIP areas.”) but it is far enough removed from the intensity of the dance floor that once you are situated in The Bourbon Bar, even with the EDM music playing, you feel comfortable and want to settle in.
What also makes Q stand out is the customer service. While you would think that customer service would be at the top of any bar or nightclub’s list of rules, it unfortunately falls by the wayside at many Capitol Hill waterholes. Q is different. And it starts at the door (shouldn’t it always?) and is consistent all throughout the entire staff. Smith has hired what he calls “Security Concierge” instead the more vulgar, albeit realistic “security guards.” Normally I would call bullshit and point out how pretentious that is but the truth is, the security team was so nice, so alert and communicative, they really do fit the Q’s title for them.
When Q owners first announced the club’s creation, Smith and his business partner were unclear if Q would be a gay dance club or not; instead Q released a statement that said, “At Q, everyone is welcome.”
That didn’t go over so well.
Seattle is what I like to describe as a “little big city.” Meaning, it’s not as big as Los Angeles, and it’s not as small as Bakersfield. If Seattle were porridge it would be “just right.” Word travels fast in the Emerald City – especially on The Hill. So when locals got wind that the old auto garage space at 1426 Broadway was being remodeled into a behemoth of a dance club, excitement and speculation ran wild.
When gay residents found out that Q’s owners were previously involved in the New York City club scene (Back in Chelsea, Smith was a part of the creation of XL, a gay club) they assumed Q would plant its rainbow flag and all would be right in the world.
Q did plant their rainbow flag – but they did it in the 2012 way. These days it is all about being inclusive.
Smith, who is gay, maintains, “We are a Capitol Hill nightclub. And that means that everybody that is part of this neighborhood is welcome at Q.”
In the weeks leading up to the September 7 Exclusive (invite only) Preview Party, which featured an open bar, light and sound display, and acted as a sneak peak for the roughly 800 people “on the list” and the September 8 Grand Opening, it became clear that Q would not lose customers to this notion that in 2012 bar and nightclub owners should still have to declare just how gay the space will be. It’s located on Capitol Hill – trust me, it’s gay.
Q Capitol Hill is open 7 nights a week at 1426 Broadway (between Pike and Union). For more information go to www.qcapitolhill.com.