Despite valiant efforts during the 1990s, Seattle never became much of a clubbing town. Clubs came and went, but indie rock and (for lack of a better word) grunge were the overwhelming preference of the people.
One place has endured. The Re-Bar—now more than 25 years old—is a local treasure that doesn't usually rate outside of Seattle's small nightlife community. But a few weeks ago, Time Out recognized it as one of the 15 best dance clubs in America. These lists are usually trash, but it's nice to see our tiny spot recognized.
Re-Bar is included on a list with massive superclubs XS in Las Vegas, Liv in Miami, legendary Chicago house spot the Smart Bar (where Frankie Knuckles, the Black Madonna, and Derrick Carter have been resident DJs), and well-known venues like Los Angeles' The Echo and New York's Output.
About Re-Bar, Time Out wrote: "A welcoming, no-judgment zone that attracts a lively mix of punk kids, hip hop heads, house fans of the gay, straight and everything-in-between persuasion, Re-Bar’s fun theme nights set it apart as a fantastic spot to get down. “Guilty Pleasure” nights harken back to ’90s raves; “Monster Planet” evenings screen B-horror movies in the background; and “Flammable” parties feature hot local house music DJs including Brian Lyons, Wesley Holmes and Xan Lucero."
That's accurate, but doesn't quite get at what makes the Re-Bar such a special spot (it is also, after all, where Dan Savage met his hubby). It's been the central point of queer nightlife, quirky theater productions, and underground techno for more than two decades. Its bartenders, hosts, and DJs have been there for years. (My introduction to Riz Rollins was at the Re-Bar). Flammable, the party run by Brian Lyons and Wesley Holmes, has been going strong for upwards of 20 years and bills itself as the longest-running house music party on the West Coast. (I'd wager that it actually might be the longest-running house music party in the country.)
The club is under newish ownership—local DJ Michael Manahan is one of the proprietors—and under their watchful eye it's gotten a new sound system, a fresh coat of paint, and invigorated bookings. The condo towers rising around it signal certain impending doom; Re-Bar, and the adjacent Kremwerk, are the only low-rise structures on that block. Awhile back there was some rumbling about trying to attain landmark status for the club, but its relative lack of beauty may prevent it from being granted such status. Enjoy it while you still can.