On July 11, the owners of King Cobra—a nightclub specializing in hard rock, punk, and metal on East Pike Street on Capitol Hill—announced that they were putting the club up for sale after just six months of operation. In an e-mail, King Cobra co-owner Jamie Garza attributed the abrupt decision to financial and managerial mistakes and a lack of marketing for the club.
Filling up the 475-capacity venue the duo built from the ashes of Kincora Pub, which was demolished for a condo development, was a concern from the start. After all, the venue is right across the street from Neumo's, a well-established club, and just four blocks from Chop Suey, another popular venue. Previously, the space was home to Sugar nightclub, which closed after two major shootings.
"We went through some hard times with booking and promoting," Garza acknowledges. "Some of our early shows were amazing, but [we] didn't get the crowd we needed."
Low attendance sometimes led to uncomfortable situations—like when the club was forced to waive the cover charge for a May 5 show headlined by Blackie, a Blondie tribute band, when only a handful of people showed up. Commenters on Line Out, The Stranger's music and nightlife blog, accused the club of failing to pay the band. The situation was eventually settled—according to co-owner Che Sabado, the band was paid—but it served as an indicator of the managerial and promotional problems the club faced in its initial weeks.
As Garza and Sabado's financial issues snowballed, it became increasingly difficult for them to control the club. Garza says he lost a considerable amount of money on the stock market, and was pulling longer shifts at the Bellingham oil refinery where he also works to keep the club afloat. Finally, it became clear to both partners that they couldn't keep the club running on their own. "We understand that most businesses will lose money during the first year," said Garza. "Problem was, we didn't have the cash reserves to cover that."
Garza said, "It's not our choice to sell," and both partners insist that the sale has more to do with their own financial situation than with the club's shaky beginnings. They hope the club will continue to operate with its current staff and concert calendar intact.