The new turntables and mixer at the Baltic Room still have labels on them that say "Element" in all caps. The old soundsystem, with the long, black bassbins along the dance floor's far wall—which, combined with the intimate space, made the Baltic Room one of the best dance spots on the Hill—has been replaced, at least temporarily, with a pair of speaker stacks flanking the small stage/DJ booth. The dark walls around the dance floor have been painted a bright off-white, recalling the interiors of Sugar, Manray, or See Sound Lounge. The club's lighting has been pared down for the time being to a few static stage lights. And some of the familiar decorative touches, such as the swarm of paper butterflies hanging near the entrance, have vanished. The club's new owner, Jason Brotman, who also owns the Level 5 nightclub (formerly Element, recently in the news because of a nearby shooting) in Queen Anne, was in the club before doors opened on Halloween night, taking care of some things in the office while people hung holiday decorations. Two unfamiliar bouncers—silent, surly, and apparently also borrowed from Element—worked the door that night.

It's probably too soon to tell how drastically the Baltic Room will change and to what end, but it's definitely changing. Booker Aaron Lewis (of SunTzu Sound) is out. In terms of programming, drum 'n' bass Tuesdays will return to the Baltic after a long run at the War Room, Oscillate's Thursday residency seems tenuous, Soul Gorilla are said to be taking over Friday nights, and no doubt other changes are in the works. The Baltic Room has always felt like the last bar on Capitol Hill, perched right on the cusp of downtown. Now, that distinction is starting to feel a little less clear.

So, it seemed like a good time to call it quits at the Baltic Room. I don't usually write about my DJing in this column—it's unseemly—but I've been DJing there for the last three years (at Ruff Gemz and, before that, Members Only) and in that time a lot has changed on Capitol Hill, not all of it for the better. I'll still DJ at Comeback and other nights, but it'll be nice to spend a little more time observing nightlife from the other side of the dance floor.

One such observation: On Saturday night, an old friend was back in town after a year spent teaching abroad, and he wanted to see the new Cha Cha. To say he didn't recognize the place would be a gross understatement. Indicating the bar's weekend crowd, an employee who won't be named here said it wasn't so bad being behind the bar but that they wouldn't want to be "out there."

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The Baltic Room and the Cha Cha aren't the only institutions transforming in the face of development. An e-mail from an anonymous employee of the Showbox arrived in The Stranger's inbox Monday, November 5, warning that the historic venue might be priced out of its almost 70-year-old location and forced to close. "The Showbox is apparently not going to be around for very much longer," according to the anonymous employee. "There has been a long-running rumor, ever since the '80s really, that the Showbox is about to be torn down... It's all been rumors and bullshit up until a few months ago. The owner estimates a two-year lifespan for us, but isn't hopeful...."

The Showbox was established in 1939 and, according to the e-mail, its stage, pillars, and spring-loaded floor date from the original construction. But it lacks the protections of historic-landmark status. "A few other venues have obtained landmark status, thus sparing them from the ever rising cost of land in the urban area," the employee writes. "But over the last few years we have been continually denied."

The Showbox has recently reopened a club called Showbox Sodo in the site of the defunct Premier, but early reports from the venue indicate that, despite renovations, the new space still doesn't hold a candle to the original venue's acoustics or aesthetics, to say nothing of location—one is a beautiful, historic theater downtown; the other is a concrete bunker in Sodo.

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According to the e-mail, the property value for the Showbox downtown has skyrocketed in recent years, up to $20 million for the club and $11 million for the adjacent parking lot, due to the "spectacular location and view" that would be obtained by the "fucking condos" that will "inevitably be replacing one of our city's best music venues." No one at the Showbox could be reached for comment—or to corroborate the facts—by press time. recommended

egrandy@thestranger.com