by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
The popular Wallingford neighborhood Gay bar, Changes (often referred to as the 'Gay Cheers'), has come under attack for noise complaints, prompting the bar staff to create a petition to defend the business against the continued barrage of SPD visits where officers ask them to keep it down.
'A dart's toss from the University of Washington and the only Gay bar in Wallingford, Changes Bar and Grill has been gathering friends together for 22 years,' reads a statement on the business's website, www.changesinwallingford.com. 'Opening January 31, 1989, we have outlasted many of our competitors. Just a few quick minutes from downtown, Changes opened a Gay bar in the heart of Wallingford with the intent to celebrate diversity and community. This neighborhood Gay bar treats everyone like a regular, even if it's your first time there.'
Robert, who requested that his last name not appear in print, has worked as a bartender at Changes for 11 years and says the bar has done whatever it could to accommodate the noise complaint. Nothing has worked, he said - except the petition.
Robert told Seattle Gay News the problems began when a woman bought a condo several months ago from an owner who failed to inform her that a bar was located right next door.
When I first heard about this neighborhood struggle, the first thing I thought (and I assume many of you surmised this, as well) was, 'Well, yeah. You bought a condo next to bar. There is going to be some noise associated with that.' But according to Robert, the bar, at first, respected the woman's wishes.
Although Changes is famous for many things, the back patio area is very popular with regulars. The woman's condo is located next to the patio. In addition, Changes hosts three nights of karaoke, by Black Nail Productions, that, according to Robert, was another point of contention with their new neighbor as far as noise is concerned.
I should tell you that I have been to Changes many times. Not only have I enjoyed each visit (the bar staff and clientele are among the friendliest you will find in the city), I remember seeing a note the bar management posted on the door leading to the patio. The message told bar patrons to be respectful of the neighbor when talking outside on the patio, and that the patio would be off-limits after 10 p.m. Also, according to Robert, the bar has added extra insulation to prevent karaoke noise pollution from reaching the neighbor. Still, she remained unsatisfied. Nothing they did seemed to please the woman.
Robert also told SGN it is important to note that Changes is not the only bar sharing the neighbor's immediate area. He said there are three other bars and restaurants near the condo, and that some of them feature live music.
The police visits have been cordial, he said. In fact, he alleges that the woman has also called the police about issues unrelated to noise, including requesting the police remove a shopping cart left in front of the building that houses her condo.
The petition came about as a counterattack to a petition the woman was allegedly circulating around the neighborhood, asking people to sign it in support of minimizing any noise that escapes Changes. Though the woman's petition did not gather many signatures, Changes staff still felt it was prudent to start a counter-petition of their own.
The petition reads: 'For the last 22 years, Changes has been a much-loved fixture in Wallingford and in the Seattle Gay community. Recently, new elements in the neighborhood have decided we don't belong here anymore. These complaints come from a single new homeowner in the area who has filed a number of noise complaints against us. Changes serves hundreds of people a week with affordable drinks and good times, and but also supports local sports teams in the neighborhood and the Wallingford economy. To keep Changes alive and kicking, please sign this online petition so we can be open another 22 years.'
To be clear, Changes is not in danger of being closed down. Their business is alive and well, and, according to Robert, since Changes began to promote their own petition, the calls to SPD over noise complaints have ceased. Hundreds of people have already signed the petition.
Robert says he does not think that their neighbor is homophobic. Instead, he said, the woman is probably angry over the fact that she was not told in advance that she was buying a condo located next to a bar. The situation, it would seem, just got out of hand, but has begun to calm itself.
With over 20 years of service to the Gay community, Changes is one of the longest-running Gay bars in Seattle.
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