Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Note on Freeway Park | Youth Pastor Watch »

Monday, May 12, 2008

Goodbye CHAC. Hello Velocity?

posted by on May 12 at 11:40 AM

Looks like the great experiment in for-profit theater might be moving—perhaps against its will.

People have been trading all kinds of rumors about Capitol Hill Arts Center: that they’re moving (or being kicked) out, that they’re trying to buy their lovely brick building on 12th, that building owner Elizabeth Linke (who also owns the building that houses Northwest Film Forum) has been dissatisfied with CHAC’s slow slide from arts center to nightclub, etc.

Matthew Kwatinetz, CHAC’s founder and executive director, wrote in an email last Thursday: “The lease options are ours (meaning that the owner can’t decide not to renew our lease, that is our option, not hers), and yes we are definitely trying to purchase the building, as we have been for several years. Much of this buzz could be from all the advocacy work that I have been doing in the last several months trying to get the ‘crisis’ in real estate out there.”

But I just got off the phone with Elizabeth Linke (a politic and articulate lady from Ireland, now living in Ballard): “Matthew did not exercise his option to renew in January—as far as I know, he’ll be moving out June 30.” As for selling the building to Kwatinetz, “he proposed buying it, but that’s not up for discussion—I’m not interested in selling, period.”

So: CHAC is out, according to the building owner, but not CHAC itself. (It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out…)

Crave will stay and, according to owner and chef Robin Leventhal, maybe even expand.


Linke prefers to rent to arts organizations—she’s been “very satisfied” with the Film Forum as a tenant, but tactfully declined to comment on her satisfaction level with CHAC. “I have no axe to grind with Matthew,” she said. “He’ll be gone soon, to go do whatever it is he wants to do.”

Linke is having early-stage discussions with Velocity Dance Center about the possibility of renting to them. Velocity has to move out of its home in the Oddfellows Hall, whose new owner Ted Schroth has tripled their rent.

Velocity (which won the first Stranger Genius Award for organization five years ago) would be a perfect fit for the Building Formerly Known As CHAC.

Its main room is a brick cavern, not unlike Velocity’s current home, with high ceilings and wood floors—but, sadly, no friezes of yawning lions on the walls.

You can’t have everything.

(Unless, of course, somebody at Velocity wants to “accidentally” leave the doors open and some extraction tools lying around sometime… )

RSS icon Comments


I really truly don't know anybody who has been satisfied with CHAC's administration. Those guys have to be some of the most disorganized people to run a venue I have ever met.

If I were to name-drop the list of artists who have felt ripped off from CHAC's sketchy business practices, the list would go on for pages...

Posted by godsactionfigure | May 12, 2008 11:48 AM

Don't forget that the Peoples Republic of Komedy will still be doing shows there every wednesday and other nights. And they were almost Geniuses.

Posted by Andy Haynes | May 12, 2008 12:00 PM

good riddance to another theater that aspires to be a nightclub. fuck CHAC!

Posted by misspennycandy | May 12, 2008 12:22 PM

Can't say as this really comes as a surprise, but even so the loss of ANY arts venue, regardless of whether or not they're eventually replaced by another arts org, isn't exactly cause for celebration, given the number of venues that have disappeared just on the Hill in recent months.

Still, yay for Crave!

Posted by COMTE | May 12, 2008 12:28 PM

What about 14/28?

Posted by GDC | May 12, 2008 12:46 PM


Their web site: http://www.14/

still lists them being at CHAC in July, although that seems rather problematic, if Matthew is expected to vacate the building before then.

I suppose it might be possible for them to negotiate a separate, short-term rental of the space, but that also seems far-fetched, as it would essentially put Ms. Linke in the position of acting as a de-facto booking manager of her own space. Presumably, she would prefer to have a full-term tenant in-place by the time the lease rolls over at the end of June, who THEN might rent to 14/48.

But at this point, if they're smart (and they are) they would probably be better served by trying to secure another venue, perhaps going back to B'way Performance Hall, or better still, the Erikson on Harvard Ave for this round, then try to work out a more permanent solution for future shows.

The challenge of course is going to be that pretty much every venue that would work for them in terms of seating capacity and facilities is probably already booked, so finding a suitable venue is going to be difficult at this late stage.

Posted by COMTE | May 12, 2008 12:55 PM

@4 - But CHAC really hasn't operated as an arts organization for several years now. Other than the Mike Daisey show and the (truly excellent) Striking 12 in December, what has CHAC produced lately? I see this not as a loss of an arts venue but as a reclaiming of a venue from an organization that couldn't make the space work for arts.

Having Velocity move into that space would be the best possible solution for both them and the space itself.

Posted by genevieve | May 12, 2008 12:55 PM

Seriously, I totally closed that html tag, I swear...

Posted by COMTE | May 12, 2008 12:57 PM

The CHAC mainstage is a place to avoid during the summer. With all that brick it becomes a sweltering oven (and the upstairs space is even worse). When 14/48 did their a summer show in the Broadway Performance Hall it was great that it was in a place that was air conditioned.

Posted by Krrrk | May 12, 2008 1:12 PM

btw (chris, you had an extra slash in there)
and krrrk, i second that emotion.

Posted by thickturd | May 12, 2008 1:14 PM


"Crime And Punishment", which ran in the Lower Level last summer/fall was officially a co-production between CHAC and "Theatre Under Ground", presumably a one-off assembled specifically for this production (or at least curtailed, now that TUG "Artistic Director" Sheila Daniels has secured a more permanent gig with Intiman).

And I wouldn't consider either Mike's show or "Striking 12" as anything other than rentals, since both pieces were self-contained, and really all CHAC had to do was promote them, and handle the box office.

So, while it's not exactly true that CHAC itself hasn't been producing shows the past few years, on the other hand, they certainly haven't been programming regular seasons, as they did initially, and have spent most of the past three years as basically a rental venue.

Posted by COMTE | May 12, 2008 1:18 PM

@5 I believe 14/48's current emailings have stated they will be doing 14/48 at the Seattle Children's Theatre?

Posted by JenMoon | May 12, 2008 1:20 PM

The CHAC has been apparently succeeding as a music venue for some time and I for one will be sad to see the lower level close in it's current form. On any night of the week there is something interesting going on there and the community built around it is filled with interesting and unique people.

Posted by Rob | May 12, 2008 1:27 PM

Wait...CRAVE gets to stay? On any given day there are more rats in that slop-house than people. I find it amazing that place is still in business.

Posted by Annoyed | May 12, 2008 1:47 PM

JenMoon @12: 14/48 is in talks to run their event at ACT come July, as well as other "notable" theaters. Brendan Kiley slogged about this awhile back...

Posted by Bee | May 12, 2008 1:54 PM


If that's the case, they ought to change the info on their web site...

Posted by COMTE | May 12, 2008 1:56 PM

@16: nothing is approved. I doubt they'd change their website to read "we don't know where it's happening yet, but come see 14/48 in July!!" Personally, I'm really looking forward to seeing the fest in a venue that isn't rat-infested (what's the name of that rafter-running rat of theirs??), one that has both heat for the January festival and cool air for the July festival. Oooh, the luxury.

Posted by Bee | May 12, 2008 2:02 PM

As to the rest of CHAC, one of the worst performance spaces in the whole city is that POS lower theater, next to the bar. Unfortunately, it also must be cheap as I've seen many a small troupe and vanity project perform there. Once again, CHAC's just trying to make a buck, I guess. Am glad I may never again have to turn down an invite to see a friends show just because of venue choice (and yes, I am snobby enough to say no to theater performed in crap spaces.)

Posted by Bee | May 12, 2008 2:07 PM

Hey all,

The producers of 14/48 have known about this; however, it is still a fairly new definitive development (as opposed to rumor). We are in discussions and negotiations regarding the July fest and beyond. 14/48 remains a viable organization, nomadic or otherwise. As soon as we have more info to share, we will share it.

And yes, we will update our website as soon as we can; thanks for the nudge.

Thank you,
Peggy Gannon
14/48 Steering Committee

Posted by Peggy Gannon | May 12, 2008 2:18 PM

Also, I love it that a post about the possible relocation of CHAC has been co-opted into a "oh dear god, what about 14/48??" comment thread. Guess we know what's important to us slogsters...

Posted by Bee | May 12, 2008 2:36 PM

Actually, I wouldn't call Striking 12, or the Mike Daisy performances rentals. These groups didn't approach CHAC to perform, CHAC approached them to produce the shows there. Good examples of CHAC/Matthew bringing some great theater to town for us to see.

Posted by marigold | May 12, 2008 3:23 PM

this thread is embarassing. how many folks do you see trying to take a crack at providing affordable performance space for artists (yes DJ's are included, eh!) and what do we do, cheer when we see it go? shameful. sharktown much? privileged much? wtf? you think this stuff grows on trees? what do you really know about how that space came to even be inhabitable (literally, code-wise etc) for artists? check yourselves.

Posted by confused fan of chac | May 12, 2008 3:37 PM

Agree with #22 -- CHAC has been kind enough to donate space for Capitol Hill Community Council meetings and our election on June 5th (also, Crave meanies, Crave donated some chow for election night but you don't get to eat it!)

Not saying you have to think they're great but how about a little love for the home team?

Posted by jseattle | May 12, 2008 3:48 PM

Uhm... As an artist who has performed at CHAC, I never saw any great benefits to the place. Affordable? That's debatable. The only artist I've ever seen semi-get ahead was P.R.O.K. and that's mostly because of the hustle and grind that Prok gives all their shows. It has nothing to do with CHAC.

How is it that you can perform at a smaller place like the Re-bar, or Baltic room, and get the same paycheck as you would get performing at CHAC, which holds significantly more people?

It's time for them to go. The community that CHAC serves will find somewhere else to go. There will always be a demand for Slam poetry, stand-up comedy, beginning burlesque, and the occasional burning man party. (Although besides comedy, none of that demand would be from me.) Enough demand for another venue to help foster those scenes. There were venues that did that before CHAC, and there will always be venues that will do so after CHAC.

Posted by godsactionfigure | May 12, 2008 3:57 PM

@22 & 23:

As someone who both worked internally with CHAC (PR/Marketing for "Archangels Don't Play Pinball" in 2005), and as a staff member for a company that was in-residence within CHAC for 2 1/2 years (Annex Theatre), not to mention long association with 14/48, and having known nearly all of the staff who've gone through CHAC's revolving employment-door since it's inception, I believe I'm perfectly qualified to comment on EXACTLY "how that space came to even be inhabitable".

You DO remember, for example, that there was a viable dance studio in the space for a number of years prior to CHAC taking it over, don't you? And that much of the infrastructure was already there when they arrived, don't you? And that Annex Theatre - out of their own pocket - made significant upgrades to their studio space, to the extent that it was ready-and-waiting for a new tenant when we moved out last summer, don't you?

And as I stated in my initial comment (cit ref #4 above), I don't think ANYONE is exactly happy to lose a performance venue, regardless of its relative strengths and weaknesses (and, if the Velocity thing comes through, at least we're looking at a net wash, trading one space for another, which is better than a net loss), but I certainly wouldn't be the first person to note the rather lackidaisical manner in which the venue has been managed over the years.

Frankly, Matthew is a really nice guy, and he had a terrific idea in the beginning. But, having a good idea, and being able to follow through on executing that idea in a responsible, business-like manner are two different skills. And it because obvious to anyone paying attention that the people running CHAC, regardless of their intentions and desires, clearly lacked the latter. The fact they kept changing their "business plan" from year-to-year, and that they were patently unable to generate and maintain long-term arts tenancies, in addition to the incredibly high staff turnover rate, should be unambiguous proof of that.

Posted by COMTE | May 12, 2008 4:48 PM


There were venues that did that before CHAC, and there will always be venues that will do so after CHAC.

It's pretty east to just sit on the sidelines and bitch about grasses greener while legitimate artists and community devotees are working their asses off to produce these events. Please recognize that the loss of a community art space is NEVER a good thing, regardless of your decision not to support it.

Posted by Eat A Dick | May 12, 2008 5:40 PM

Fuck. Anyone know of a nice 120-person theater with a bar? Sounds like the Salon of Shame will soon be homeless, and going back to the Jewelbox ain't gonna work...

I'm going to go quietly freak out now.

Posted by Ariel | May 12, 2008 6:26 PM

@25 I guess I'm just confused about your intentions. In my experience, it's best to take a constructive approach (instead of dismissive) when it comes to problem-solving as a community (and that's what we need when it comes to space for art). There's some real capacity, energy and community empowerment embodied by chac, however imperfect. There are plenty of people and groups that feel chac is a home (in some cases one they aren't sure will be as easy to replace as you suggest). By dismissing chac wholesale, you're dismissing a bunch of people and a lot of great alignment built around issues not far from yours... I would guess? It's potentially irresponsible if you believe that loss of local character is an issue that requires organizing and coalition-building. I don't mean this to sound silencing... do you think there's any value to what I'm saying?

Posted by confused fan of chac | May 12, 2008 7:56 PM

# 28 QFT. Thanks for the inspiring words, Ariel!

CHAC has many, many wonderful qualities to it and some great personalities involved. As a performer (yes, a DJ, and we seem to be getting a bad wrap here), I have always had a special affinity for the venue and their willingness to work with a diverse range of artists and musicians...

unlike some of the total elitists writing here.

Posted by Adlib | May 12, 2008 8:26 PM

Well, clearly then, your experiences vary greatly from those of myself and many others who have interfaced with CHAC over the years. But I think, if you were to go back and read Brendan's O.P. objectively, you would see my personal and institutional experiences jibe with many others in the community, take that as you will.

In any event, Ms. Linke appears to be open to maintaining the space as some sort of arts venue. If that truly is the case, I would expect a group like Velocity, with a proven track-record of successfully managing a mult-space venue, to be an ideal tenant; and of course, for them the timing would be perfect.

So, as I said previously, in one sense we're not losing it as a performance space so much as changing the primary type of performance done within it. But given Velocity's previous willingness to rent out their spaces (we did "Spin The Bottle" our late-night cabaret there for about four years), I would expect them to continue to provide opportunities for other artists to make use of these spaces.


Having personally watched a rat scamper unimpeded up a 12 foot high glass WINDOW at CHAC, and given the age, architecture, and general condition of the building, I think I can say with complete confidence there is not a single nook and cranny of that space where rats DON'T have access to some degree or other.

We always took it as a standing rule that ALL edible organic items, waste or otherwise, had be removed from our spaces on pretty much a daily basis, for that very reason; you simply cannot stop freaking window-climbing mutant ninja rats from entering at-will.

Posted by COMTE | May 12, 2008 9:50 PM

@17 parenthetical:

Paul Lynde.

Posted by Rogue | May 12, 2008 9:57 PM

Ariel @ 27, if you are indeed in need of space, Theatre Off Jackson seats 140 and we have a bar.

Posted by Amanda | May 12, 2008 10:04 PM

@ 27 and 32:

Theatre Off Jackson would be PERFECT for the Salon of Shame.

Posted by Brendan Kiley | May 13, 2008 10:20 AM

@28 (and the others): Something to also keep in mind is that for years the individual or small arts groups that had "less than positive" experiences at CHAC went unheard.

The gripes that have finally surfaced in the last couple of years are just the tip of the iceberg. Sure, one can say "well it's the best awful arts venue we've got..." but the truth is there are small companies that went under or truly suffered by entering into agreements with CHAC.

Instead of having sympathy for people picking on CHAC because they did have cool people do cool stuff inside their walls, I'm much more inclined to feel sympathy for ALL of the people who took a hurting financially, emotionally, and even to their own artistic reputation by getting into bed with CHAC.

The fact that despite everyone who ran out of the building screaming about what a bad experience they had but there STILL being another organization who was ready to jump in and take their own turn climbing into the bed isn't a feather in CHAC's cap... at best it's a salute to the fact that there ARE a lot of good people doing cool art in this town. I think it's very wrong to hand that accolade over to CHAC when all they did is put up the walls and then torment everyone who came in with good faith.

Posted by mememe | May 13, 2008 10:48 AM

I love Theater Off Jackson, too.

Back when ComedyNight was made homeless due to the closing of the Mirabeau Room, TOJ was at the top of my list to consider as a replacement. (We didn't pursue it because people kept warning us that audiences wouldn't come to the ID--but, having been part of the successful HAX-TV show there, I really should have gone forward with it.)

And wouldn't the ReBar also be a good option for Salon of Shame? (As, it's been mentioned here on the Slog, it would also be a good option for PRoK...)

Speaking of PRoK--I enjoyed a rat-free experience in the upstairs performance area of CHAC for Laff*Hole on May 7th. Very funny stuff.

It's an unfortunate coincidence that all of this CHAC/lease drama happens at the same time that PRoK has moved a couple of their shows there. There's a lot of momentum in the local alt-comedy scene to be lost if they're forced into some sort of nomadic existence.

Posted by pgreyy | May 13, 2008 12:41 PM

Seems like there is a distinct difference in the comments above between "CHAC - the building" and "CHAC - the org". But it also doesn't sound like from Elizabeth Linke's comments that she's tearing down the building or turning it into condos either.

And maybe with a little new effort in there, Crave won't have to work as hard to keep the rats that parade around the building because only half the people care enough to cart their food out or put lids on the garbage OUT of their space.

BTW I once heard a health inspector state that there wasn't a single restaurant in Seattle that didn't have rodents. He may have been trying to gross me out but .

Posted by JenMoon | May 13, 2008 4:04 PM

I tried to book an upcoming event at the CHAC and they took SIX weeks to call me back.

I tried getting them on the phone for a solid two weeks before I gave up in disgust. Every other venue in town was able to get back in touch with in a week.

Posted by Rob | May 14, 2008 9:54 AM

Fuck all yall.

Posted by d | May 16, 2008 6:42 PM

Fuck all yall.

Posted by d | May 16, 2008 6:43 PM

I have to say I have really enjoyed Club V, and will be sad to see it go.

Posted by airequipt | May 17, 2008 10:15 AM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).