The Bus Stop's been open for more than a year and a half, yet the question remains in many minds: Is the Bus Stop gay? Those less than fully initiated unerringly ask (unless it's "Which bus stop?" in which case yet more explanation is required: the Bus Stop is a bar by the actual bus stop between the Cha Cha and Manray on East Pine Street).

The small space and its accoutrement do not suggest any particular orientation. The Bus Stop's paramount quality: good lighting, brought to you by red drapes, a red neon "BUS" and "STOP" in the two front windows, and a candle on each little round table. Good lighting being arguably neither hetero- nor homonormative, one might look to art for guidance: An entire wall creates a canvas for large-scale spray-painted graffiti, and several frenetically detailed paintings involve skulls. Any subtext vis-à-vis sexual identification is inscrutable, and the predilections of the creators are unknown: net effect, neutral. Through the skylight over the bar, the branches of an enormous pine are visible, seemingly impossibly high above—an unexpected beauty, remote, impartial.

So, to the bathroom (unisex) and its copious inked messages (presumably ditto): "Dirt Fag Riot '06" (gay), "Ruby Rocker + Tommy Rocker" (straight?), "Steve J. is a size queen" (gay), "I got laid at Gary's b-day party RIGHT HERE [arrow]" (indeterminate), "Rodney is the worst lesbian ever" (who can say, really?). A notice regarding something that someone named Betsy did for four days reads, in context, unmistakably het. The words "hungry hungry hippos" are rendered in a lovely red cursive. Flares, sent up from across the spectrum of human sexuality.

The Bus Stop has served as temporary headquarters for a band of marauding, drunken Santas (straight-seeming). It has hosted Purty Mouth ("Seattle's gayest country band"), the World's Tiniest Tea Dance (pretty damn gay), and Anal Sex Tuesday (up to you, really). The cocktail napkin drawing contest: meant for those of all stripes (though note that my entry depicting a hot dog stand did not win).

The staff: self-described as half and half, though not on an individual basis. There's the quietly gracious female bartender with the exceptionally long, exceptionally shiny, stick-straight hair; the gorgeous drag queen; the stylish, tattooed male manager, who, when asked the question everyone's still asking, says simply, "It's halfway gay."

Enjoy it while you can; rumor has it that in the spring the entire block may be razed to make way for condos.

Meanwhile, another Capitol Hill home to a clientele defying classification closes forever (after 63 years) on August 31, amongst similar rumors: Farewell, Jade Pagoda, and thank you. recommended