by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Neighbours Nightclub, Seattle's biggest LGBTQ dance club, celebrated its 33rd Anniversary (the kick-off of their 33rd year) last Saturday by crowning a new Miss Neighbours XXII, Kaleena Markos, and Mr. Neighbours XXII, Truong Nguyen. The pageant itself is more than 20 years old, but the nightclub has been around for more than three decades. That is virtually unheard of in the nightclub industry. However, Seattle is lucky in that way. The city's only Lesbian bar, The Wild Rose, has been around for more than two decades, and the same can be said for R Place, Madison Pub and The Cuff, too. As much as people can complain about the LGBTQ nightlife establishments on Capitol Hill, the proof is in the number of years these bars and nightclubs remain open. Each venue has a loyal following that has sustained them through the good times and the bad times. Even now, with all of the hysteria over gentrification and thousands of straight people buying up condos in the neighborhood, none of the LGBTQ bars and nightclubs report struggling to make ends meet.
Among the staples of our nightlife community, however, none stands out quite like Neighbours Nightclub does, for a number of reasons. Chiefly, the size of the place means that it has the biggest Pride crowds, the biggest New Year's Eve celebration and so on. It has also been the target of Nazis, a local terrorist, and more. It has had a mixed crowd long before that was even a thing and to many people, over many decades, Neighbours is home for them in terms of LGBTQ nightlife.
'For over three decades Neighbours Nightclub (1509 Broadway, Seattle, WA. 98122) has provided a safe space for anyone wanting to leave all their worries on the dance floor, celebrate a birthday, an engagement (and most recently) same-sex marriage reception, or just party like a rock star nearly every night of the week,' says the club's management on the business's official website - www.NeighboursNightclub.com.
Neighbours Nightclub opened its doors Labor Day Weekend, 1983, and went on to become Seattle's longest running and largest LGBTQ nightclubs, and it's easy to see why: Neighbours Nightclub can hold nearly 1100 people, boasts two levels of fun, an expanded lounge, and offers guests a full food menu, state of the art sound system and light show as well as one of the largest dance floors in the city. That is tough to beat.
Over the years Neighbours has won several 'Best of Washington,' 'Best of Seattle,' and 'Best of Seattle Weekly' polls, in addition to receiving various LGBTQ community awards.
'One of the reasons why Neighbours Nightclub has been a Seattle staple since the early 1980s is the fact that we are all-inclusive; we welcome anyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression, or queer identity,' say officials. 'Neighbours maintains a hate-free, no hate-speech atmosphere that is welcoming to newbies and some of our most loyal customers alike.'
Neighbours Nightclub has also hosted some of the world's biggest entertainers like International Pop Princess Lady Gaga, the divine Miss Eartha Kitt, to openly Gay pop icon and boy band royalty, Lance Bass, to the vocal stylings of the fashionista himself - Jimmy James. In addition, Neighbours Nightclub is considered home to mainstream talent like Las Vegas dance diva Kristine W, who boasts the record for most Number One Dance Music hits on the Billboard Dance Music charts. Plus you never know when the cast of a Broadway show will stop by to have a cocktail and perform a number or two; Neighbours hosted the cast of Kinky Boots last year.
Some of the Northwest's best DJs have spun at Neighbours including Almond Brown, Richard J Dalton (c89.5fm), Dana Dub, Brian Gorr, Joe King, Keano (c89.5), Lifeguard (c89.5fm), Lightray (c89.5), Luis, Polo, Skiddle (c89.5fm), Randy Schlager (c89.5fm), Dirty Bit, Bret Law, and Trent Von (c89.5fm).
'If camp fun and drag art is your thing, Neighbours has got you covered,' said nightclub management. 'Like many LGBTQ bars and nightclubs that opened their doors in the 1980s, drag culture is a part of the very fabric that weaves Neighbours into the local Gay community. Over the years we've featured such mainstream drag entertainers as Lady Bunny, DWV (the collective name for drag stars Detox, Willam & Vicky Vox), Latrice Royale, Juju Bee, and more. And if bio queen is more your fit, we regularly host Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, a bio queen staking her claim among the drag artists, dancers, and live vocalists that make up Seattle's local scene, and have, in the past, featured Wendy Ho onstage, at Neighbours. We've also hosted some local talent that have gone on to 'RuPaul's Drag Race' fame - Jinkx Monsoon (winner RPDR season 5) and BenDeLaCreme (star of RPDR season 6).'
In addition, Seattle's most celebrated drag queens have hosted shows and grew their careers on the Neighbours stage.
Current talent includes: Aleksa Manila, Isaac Scott, Gaysha Starr, Drew Paradisco, Atasha Manila, Jessica Paradisco, Roxy Doll, Tanya Rachinee, and Anastasia Beaverhausen, Drag King Ceasar Hart, and on occasion, La Saveona Hunt, Amora Dior Black, and the Lady Chablis. Past Neighbours Nightclub Queens include: Latrina Bidet, Vesta Bhule, Ric Chyka, LaVanda Dela Rosa, Kristin Dior D, Roxy Doll, Mark Finley, ChoCha Fresca, La Gorda, Ebony La Face Ice, Kahlua Ice, Toni James, Marcy Kraft, Shaka Kwan, Crystal Lane, Boy Mike, Sean Paul, Penelope, Rosita, Smokee, Jada Starr, Teriyaki Temple, and Coco Vaughn.
Aside from their very own Neighbours Nightclub pageant, Neighbours is also home to Darcelle XV and Company's La Femme Magnifique Washington and Washington Plus regional pageant, the annual Latino Pageant, Miss Gay Seattle (the longest running pageant in the history of drag pageantry, it predates the 1969 Stonewall Riots which led to the modern LGBTQ equality movement), Seattle Pride Pageant, and the Nubian Pride Pageant to name a few.
Every Sunday, Neighbours Nightclub hosts Noche Latina, Seattle's longest running Latin Dance Music party. Produced by local LGBTQ Latino/a advocacy organization, Entre Hermanos, and hosted by local drag icon La Gorda, Noche Latina has seen mainstream Latin artists such as Fedro, Christian Chavez, Maria Jose - and many, many more. In addition, Noche Latina and Neighbours Nightclub have hosted Southern California party crew Club Papi on occasion.
Neighbours Nightclub has also hosted some of the biggest events and longest running club nights in Seattle including parties for or produced by AJAXX 63, c89.5fm all ages Listener Appreciation Parties, Chance Fashion Shows, Hot Flash Women's Parties, Manhunt, Grindr, and Rock Lobster '80s night, as well as hosting their signature Halloween, New Year's Eve and Pride parties. And don't forget our 18+ dance night Exposed - every Wednesday night from 9 p.m.-2 a.m.
At the end of the day, however, it is their philanthropy that has kept Neighbours Nightclub a Seattle staple for all these years.
'Our connection to the local Capitol Hill and LGBTQ community is something we cherish,' said Neighbours Nightclub General Manager Steve Tracy. 'Neighbours Nightclub has helped raise money and hosted events for local charities and nonprofits - not to mention donated funds, space, product - to Asian/Pacific Islander (API) Council, Bailey-Boushay House, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Capitol Hill Alano Club (CHAC), Chicken Soup Brigade, Entre Hermanos, Gay City Health Project, GLSEN, GSBA, Hands Off Washington, The Imperial Sovereign Court of Seattle, Lifelong AIDS Alliance, 9.11 in New York, Northwest AIDS Foundation, Northwest Harvest, Pennies From Heaven, POCAAN, Seattle Men in Leather, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Abbey of St. Joan, United Ebony Council, Youth Suicide Prevention Program, Social Outreach Seattle and more.'
'The neighborhood has changed and then changed again,' he reminds everyone. 'We survived both waves of HIV/AIDS, economic downturn of 2008, and a number of other hardships throughout the years. But we've also given so much to the community and we receive that love in return. It's pretty fantastic. I've been with the company since the early days so I can attest to the fact that Neighbours is a part of the very fabric that makes Capitol Hill what it is to so many people.'
The nightclub has been owned by the same man who opened it in 1983 - Moe Elassiouti.
Elassiouti was born to a poor family in a small town in Egypt and lost his father at an early age. Because of this, he was thrust into the role of patriarch. In his 20s, he traveled to Germany to escape Third-World poverty and worked as a bartender and waiter at a local resort while attending a hotel and restaurant management school there. He fell in love with a young German woman and the two were married shortly after meeting. The couple eventually settled in Vancouver, B.C., where they opened a cabaret on Robson Street called Sahara Nights, a Middle Eastern-style venue with belly dancers who performed nightly in a Moroccan decor. Over the years, the club began to attract a Gay clientele and Elassiouti's desire to give the customers what they wanted resulted in the transformation of the venue into a little dance club called Neighbours.
In the early '80s, he expanded the business by opening Neighbours Seattle on Capitol Hill. The location was Bogart's, a beer and sandwich place that didn't do well. According to news reports from those days, business was slow in the beginning due to strong competition from the nearby club The Brass Rail, later known as The Brass Connection. Also, Neighbours did not serve liquor, and The Brass Rail did. Neighbours served only beer and wine in the beginning.
About a year after opening business slowly increased, and by 1988 Neighbours was fully licensed to serve liquor. From then on it seems there's been no looking back.
Seattle Gay News would like to congratulate Neighbours Nightclub for their success and thank the club's ownership, management and staff over the years for being a safe place for LGBTQ people, a venue that allows the community to raise funds for important causes, and for always keeping a part of the community alive by just existing in the way that they do. We wish you continued success.
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