The last time the Emerald caught up with Black and Tan Hall (B&TH), the South Seattle performing arts and restaurant space deeply rooted in the history of Rainier Valley, we spoke with co-founder Ben Hunter about their Hall-i-Day Party. During that conversation, Hunter mentioned some of the struggles B&TH had been having with leasing their space.
Located on Rainier Avenue South, in the heart of Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood, the historic Life Enrichment Bookstore (L.E.M.S) has officially reopened its doors.
Founded by Vickie Williams over 20 years ago as a bookstore and cultural hub for people to gather, it is one of two Black-owned bookstores in the state. The Vanishing Seattle blog detailed ways L.E.M.S has created an environment for the local community to come together: “[It] held space for African church services, recovery groups, job training for formerly incarcerated folks, and holiday and Kwanzaa bazaars for #blackowned businesses.” For many years, Dr. Maxine Mimms facilitated a monthly community gathering at the bookstore to teach Black history.
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In my family, the holidays have always been about spending time together. My mom is from the town of Waimea on the island of Kaua‘i where I have fond memories of family visits and, fortunately, video footage of my late grandma dancing Christmas hula. I was raised in Seattle, but when my parents retired, they decided to spend more time with my mom’s side of the family on Kaua‘i — which is admittedly not a terrible place to be as the weather gets chillier here in the Pacific Northwest.
Chen Dien, owner of Coffeeholic House in Columbia City, knew something was wrong when he received a phone call from his mom last Saturday morning notifying him that the store’s front door had been opened before the business day had begun.
“My heart just dropped,” Dien said. “The key box was destroyed and the key inside was gone. The cash drawer was broken, and all the money was gone.”
Seattle resident Achil Obenza regards Pho Bo in Columbia City as her go-to spot for Vietnamese cuisine. In fact, when her newborn daughter was merely 3 days old, she brought her there alongside her husband for their first family outing. Now the restaurant space is under the threat of being demolished to make way for 71 luxury apartments by a company referred to in the design review documentation as CP Rainier LLC. Construction is projected to begin in spring of 2021 once the design review process is finalized by the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections.
Ark Lodge Cinemas, Columbia City’s movie theater, launched a GoFundMe on September 19 with the goal of raising $750,000. It’s an ambitious first step in the Ark owner David McRae’s long-term hope of raising $3 million overall, enough to buy the almost 100-year-old Masonic building and securing the theater as the “Gem of Columbia City” for years to come. In addition to the GoFundMe, the Ark launched a capital campaign to attract bigger investors, with rewards ranging from limited edition T-shirts to opportunities to rename the Ark’s screening rooms. In almost two weeks, the GoFundMe has raised close to $40,000, and at least one of the capital campaign rewards has been claimed.
Artist Sam Sneke got a surprise visit from his family on Friday August 22, as he added vibrant red paint to his mural, depicting the words “Power to the People,” created on a wall at the intersection of Rainier Avenue South and South Genesee Street, between Southern Exposure and Baol African Imports and Gallery. Sneke was selected from a small group of artists who submitted examples of their work to a panel of local business owners. A previous mural, which had been there for a few years and was originally painted by members of the Seattle Neighborhood Group (SNG), had started to deteriorate. Emily Trbovich, a project assistant with SNG, said the old mural had really started to look bad and they wanted to figure out a way to involve the community in fixing it.
“The mural had a lot of tags on it and the wall looked really, really bad, and so we were looking through grants that were available through the city and we stumbled upon the [Seattle] Office of Arts and Culture. And they have a COVID Relief Grant which basically gives you a grant to do art or do some type of community project — it just has to be COVID-related.” Trbovich said the businesses she collaborated with included the restaurant Southern Exposure, the People’s Barbershop, The Beacon Cinema, Bana Ethiopian Restaurant, Ola Wyola, and the non-profit POCAAN. The mural, she says, was COVID related because “A: It’s an inspiring, positive message for the community and B: it also serves as a way to pay an artist who’s been struggling through the COVID crisis like everyone.”
After Sam Sneke was chosen by the businesses he submitted four different designs, and the businesses overwhelmingly chose “Power to the People.” Trbovich said that the Seattle Neighborhood Group really wanted to help facilitate the mural but that it was also crucial that businesses at the intersection of Rainier and Genesse made the final decision. “We wanted the businesses along that road to really make the decision, to have that power to be in the driver’s seat. It’s their mural, it’s their community, they’re the ones that are there day in and day out, so we really wanted to focus on giving them the opportunity to be a part of that.”
Artist Sam Sneke started the mural on Friday August 22 and by Saturday August 23 the words “Power to the People” were displayed boldly on the wall along Rainier Avenue, for the community and everyone driving by to be inspired by.
Lottie’s Lounge, known as “Columbia City’s Living Room,” is back in limited service with a new, outdoor lemonade stand. Located on the patio, Lottie’s Lemonade Stand sells hot dogs, vegan Field Roast dogs, hot links, bratwurst, popcorn, slushies, iced tea, and of course, fresh-made lemonade. They also sell takeout beer and wine, and their in-house made drinks come with the option of adding alcohol. As one of their recent Instagram posts stated, they serve both lemonade and “lemonade.”
Columbia City’s live music venue The Royal Room remains closed for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19, but you can still get your fix of live music through their Staycation online festival. Every Sunday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., The Royal Room will host live sets and curated recorded performances, all amplifying South Seattle musicians. Seeing music in-person might still be out of the question for a while, but for now, livestream will have to do. Continue reading The Royal Room Staycation Festival Brings Live, Local Music To Your Home→
Amplifying the Authentic Narratives of South Seattle