There's a video that's been making rounds on social media of a fight outside Q nightclub over the weekend:
It appears to show a brawl at Broadway and Pike Street that includes a bouncer backhanding someone involved in the melee. In captions, the video makers claim some folks had used anti-gay language beforehand (which I can't vouch for) and say there was another fight at Q the night before. Along with a shift away from LGBT events at the club, the fight and the changing vibe have some folks wondering if the formerly glitzy gay dance venue is on a downward slide.
If so, Q would mark a trend in the Capitol Hill neighborhood: gay clubs that open with a ton of fanfare turn into straight clubs, they become venues for violence, and then they close.
Just to be super, super clear: I'm not saying Q will close or that it's attracting violence. I'm also not saying gay clubs are safe and straight clubs are dangerous. Lots of very hetero places are super chill and plenty of gay bars have been the venue for fights between wasted, furious twinks and lumbering, angry bears. But I am saying we've seen something an awful lot like this before.
The Social on Olive Way opened with a strong queer nightlife bent, only to devolve into a straight meat-market scene, and then there was a shooting last October. The Social is now closed. Or you may remember Sugar, also at Broadway and Pike, which was flamboyantly homosexual before the programming and crowd shifted to become pretty unwelcoming for gays. A gunman opened fire inside the place in 2007, shooting three victims, and the club later closed. And Q opened last year with marketing and programming that unmistakeably targeted a queer clientele, but now a gay co-owner is out, Q's gay programming has been largely nixed, and fights are apparently spilling into the street.
I called Q owner Andy Rampl, who remains in charge after gay co-owner Scott Smith was bought out. He insisted the Q was never supposed to be a gay bar, per se. "We catered to the gay crowd and straight crowd," he said. "We catered to everyone in Seattle and on Capitol Hill." Nothing has changed, he said.
It's a strange argument. Capitol Hill Seattle reported Q's opening as a "gay" dance club. The Stranger reported it had a bathroom designated for drag queens. There were go-go boys but no go-go girls. The creative director was Kevin Kauer, a well-known gay event promoter behind nights such Dick Slap and the producer of scads of drag shows, and Q was also home to the very gay Trouble Disco. But in the last year, Kauer has left, Trouble Disco is out, the gay co-owner is out, the go-go boys are gone, and Q's Facebook page doesn't present anything remotely gay-looking. As Seattle Gay Scene recently wrote: "Q has veered from themes and nights obviously programmed for the LGBTQ community, when the club first opened, to a current line-up of events that seem to steer away from any queer content."
While Rampl insists Q was never a gay bar—even though gays were always welcome—the programming and marketing has unquestionably taken a turn to the het. And what makes a gay bar a gay bar is its promotion and programming, not just the people who show up—and the programming and marketing of Q was unmistakably gay.
It's possible that the market just doesn't support additional gay dance clubs in Capitol Hill, so owners need a broader clientele to stay afloat. For whatever reason, fancy gay dance clubs on Capitol Hill just seem to struggle (while stalwart, endearingly seedy gay dance clubs places like R-Place and Neighbours plug on unfazed).
Rampl says the other fight mentioned in the video "was an altercation, but not a full fight. There are not issues with violence. The appeal of Q should not have changed because we are still a beautiful space."
Q is a beautiful space, but it's a space that seems increasingly troubled.