by Joe Motor
This is what the city of Seattle did to my son and I, We did get our nightclub open..
This is going to be long winded, because it is a long tale of city (Seattle) corruption and shady dealings. This is a true story. In 2006, my son and I decided we wanted to break in to the nightclub business. We started looking for a space and we wanted a fairly big club. After looking and dreaming for some time, we found it. I will admit we were a bit naive. We signed a lease and started paying rent on a 9000 sq. ft. commercial space. We knew this was going to be a lot of work. However we both have our own construction companies and we are very hands-on type of guys.
It is February 2007, and we start planning our dream. With a passion for music and being the entrepreneurs that we are, we were going to pull this off, if it killed us, and it almost did. We hired an architect to get our ideas on paper, even though we I can draft fairly well. The city DPD (Dept. of Planning and Development ) would not even look at our drawings unless they were done by a licensed architect, granted, these things take time. We also had to have a structural engineer write a report on the building. While this was going on, we pulled a permit to have a fire protection sprinkler system put in to our space and some other areas of the building that were not protected. We also took care of some door and stair issues. This made the Fire Marshals Office very happy and now they were ready to work with us.
We started hosting raves with the better promoters within that scene. Keep in mind we still did not have a building permit (approval) to do our remodel. The Fire Marshal's Office gave us special assembly permits for one nighters, for a fee. We also worked with the Seattle Police, both these agencies were very easy and nice to work with. The Marshal's Office approved us for 2 raves per month and did let us slide in a couple of rock shows on top of that. This was what we needed, to be able to throw these events while we were going through the building permit process. We could make money to off set the rent while we waited for approvals.
It was now May of 2007. We submitted drawings, including a structural report ect. to the DPD. Through our architect we worked with the DPD, like I said these things take time. While in this process, we were informed by DPD we could not have any events until the entire remodel was done. I had worked with a rave promoter for some time, and I knew the Fire Marshal had full authority to approval buildings for one night events. They make sure they are safe, you pay the fee and receive the permit. This is done separately for each event.
After meeting with a high ranking Official in the FM's Office, he was livid the DPD would try to over ride them. With a nod and a wink, and reading between the lines, he explained to me what was going on. The three biggest departments under the mayor's office are the Police, The Fire Marshal's and the DPD. He said the Police are not behind this, and the Marsahal's office is not, either. Without saying, he let me know the DPD would never try to over ride his authority, unless it came from above. It now made sense.
The Police and the Fire Marshal's went to bat for us, they truly wanted to keep the rave scene from going underground. When promoters have renegade events, things can go wrong, and kids have died at underground events in Seattle. We won, and we were issued our assembly permits.
Now back to the building permit. We were told we couldn't even pound a nail until we were approved. By late summer the DPD came back at us with what is called "corrections". They had some questions for our structural engineer regarding math and load calculations, they said everything else was approved. Within a couple of days, our structural engineer answered these questions in a letter, The DPD said to give them 2 weeks to review the letter. After 4 months they would still not give us approval. Finally under pressure, the person in the DPD handling our case, informed our architect that the mayor's office had been involved with our permit process from the beginning, and they were told to never approve us.
So, we hired an attorney and started dealing with the City Attorney's Office (Tom Carr). We are told the Mayor's Office (Greg Nickels) would never abuse their power in such a way. Yet we went around and around with them for over a month. Finally the DPD approved our permit and we were stamped. What should have taken 2 weeks, has taken over 5 months. We have now been in our space approx. I year.
In a nut shell, we pissed of the Mayor's Office, by pitting the Police and the Marshal's office against them, and they drug their feet issuing us a building permit. I other words, approving everything we had submitted.
Why, because we were having raves in our venue? A lot goes on in this city and most are afraid to talk about it. They don't want any more pressure than they are already under. Me, I'm tired of keeping quiet. We lost time and money fighting for the right to open a legitimate business. Through people we knew and have met, rumor has it we created quite a hornets nest in city offices. It seems we were supposed to go broke and just fade away. I wonder how many people have been burned this way, in this town. Sure we have a different Mayor and City Attorney now, but things have always been this way. I still smell a rat.
Opening a nightclub in Seattle always takes longer than opening a restaurant. Why is this? The Liquor Control Board was easy to work with and approved us quickly. Besides most restaurants have liquor issues to deal with. But if you are going to have music and be a venue, you will be dealt with differently. You should not need an attorney to submit drawings, etc. to the DPD, but is is becoming more common to do so. My advice in dealing with city officials, is be careful. I have also been jacked around by the city's Admission's Tax Dept. and the Mayor's Office of Film and Music, who, in my opinion do very little if anything for local music.
When you deal with any of these people, write down what they say, and who say's it. Save emails and letters, they are handy in court, I know for a fact. If I open another business, I will go outside of Seattle.
For the record Motor will close it's doors at the end of August. We gave it our best shot. We have had some amazing shows. We have met and worked with some of the best people we have ever known. We have hosted around 100 raves, over 80 burlesque shows, and countless rock & roll events. Our goal was to give local music a swift kick in the ass. I think we have done just that. I would like to say thanks to all that have supported us. We will be here this summer doing what we always do. Fight the good fight and never give up on your dreams.