West Seattle’s only LGBTQ+ venue, OutWest Bar, to close after eight years

After eight years, West Seattle’s only LGBTQ+ venue, OutWest Bar, is closing. Proprietor Bob Lunke (above) confirmed it today after we stopped by to check out a tip. Bob says OutWest’s official last night hasn’t been set yet – sometime before month’s end – but they hope everyone will turn out to celebrate the bar’s run during a big going-away party on Friday, July 19th, featuring Dolly Madison and Al the DJ. Bob tells us a combination of factors is behind his decision, including the increasing difficulty of getting by in the nightlife business, with rising costs and more competition, plus the property owners have “other plans” for its future. He says he’s grateful for eight great years. OutWest has been the site of countless events beyond being a regular gathering place, including red-carpet Oscars-viewing parties and occasions like the birthday “flash mob” we covered in 2017. Before OutWest, the building at 5401 California SW was home to Westside Pharmacy for 20+ years.

23 Replies to "West Seattle's only LGBTQ+ venue, OutWest Bar, to close after eight years"

  • David July 8, 2019 (6:00 pm)

    Aww….sad to see them close.  They had a good run.  Any bar/restaurant that last lasts a year, much less 8 years, is doing good.  But yeah, the key there in that statement is “competition”.  They used to be the only LGBT venue west of Captial Hill.  Now there are 3 others (2 in White Center, 1 in Georgetown…plus another LGBT ‘friendly’ bar that will have drag brunches also opening in White Center soon).  So it’s a tougher market than when they first opened for sure.  But GOOD on them for lasting so long.  

    • forgotmyname July 9, 2019 (8:53 am)

      David, such a good point. The narrative will be ‘greedy developers’, when actually it’s the lack of development that’s leading to a lot of the people (that I know) to go elsewhere. The truth is OutWest is an isolated outpost in a residential neighborhood and none of the weekday, daytime businesses mesh well with an after hours business (a nursery? the vet? insurance?).  How many of these neighborhood bars/clubs/restaurants have closed recently? They aren’t all ‘evil developers jacking up the rent’.; single, family zoning just isn’t conducive to the kind of business density necessary to make a specialty business like OutWest a destination. The new bars in Georgetown or White Center situated themselves in
      destination places that have other things to do – eat, shop, go roller
      skating – for a reason. I liked the place, but, like a lot of folks I know, if I’m going out I’d like to do more
      than just sit in one bar.

      • John July 9, 2019 (1:14 pm)

        Good point, but other businesses along California such as New Luck Toy are prospering in the area.  White Center is becoming the new Capitol Hill.

      • mondoleo July 21, 2019 (10:12 am)

        forgotmyname has got it right.  OutWest was always a destination venue but without anything else to do in the immediate area(eating, another bar, etc.) it wasn’t worth expense of a cab or uber/lyft to come from anywhere else.Destination places need to be something quite unique to draw in the
        business on off days.   They really need to have one thing they do well.  Frankly, there wasn’t anything really special about OutWest or its marketing.  As a service industry vet and restaurant owner Outwest appeared to me to be a place that suffered a bit from an identity crisis.  Even driving by on any night it looked more like a cute, neighborhood restaurant than a bar from the outside.  Upon entering it felt a little uneven with not a good sense of direction. (This same critique could easily be applied to The Cuff, btw, who benefit from location first and everything else second and below.) The bars in White Center will do well.  Very well.  Even if there’s one or two more.  Though they will be competing with each other they will also be contributing to the building of a scene or destination spot that will make a trek to White Center from anywhere else worth it.

  • RJB July 8, 2019 (6:01 pm)

    So sorry to hear…great part of the West Seattle community.  Thanks for the last 8 years and best of luck in the future!

  • WS Foodie July 8, 2019 (6:09 pm)

    I remember being there on election night in 2012 when Obama was re-elected and marriage equality passed in WA. So much joy all around when they announced that it was going to pass!  Sorry to see it close, but best of luck to the owners! 

    • DH July 9, 2019 (7:10 am)

      I was there that night too! It was the first thing that popped in my mind reading this article. Sad to see it go. Wish all the best to them. Here’s hoping the White Center bars stay strong. 

  • Luvsseattle July 8, 2019 (6:45 pm)

    This business, and all customers, have been extraordinary neighbors! I have lived just a few doors down for many years. You will certainly be missed. 

  • Fruit Fly July 8, 2019 (7:16 pm)

    Please take up a new space in White Center! Follow the masses that are following you and move in while it’s cheap (ish). 

  • DaPuffin July 8, 2019 (7:28 pm)

    Great, welcoming and inclusive spot.  Very sad to hear they are ending their run here.  

  • Yma July 8, 2019 (8:49 pm)

    Oh NO!i mean -we never went ‘cause we’re a , um, straight (is that the term) couple. But this place should be here . Dang. Competition to me means raising prices. I do so hope property owners can understand that what makes West Seattle special is the local businesses and inclusiveness.

  • Curious July 8, 2019 (9:18 pm)

    I wonder what the “other plans” are for the property!?

    • WSB July 8, 2019 (9:25 pm)

      Nothing in listings or applications but … of note, the site is zoned for potential mixed-use development up to 4 stories; the site immediately west was redeveloped into townhouses recently. And a giant chunk of commercial property kitty-corner (ex-strip mall & ex-Papa John’s) is set for townhouses too – TR

  • RayWest July 9, 2019 (4:01 am)

    Sorry to hear this. Here comes yet another generic high-rise condo on California Ave.

  • candrewb July 9, 2019 (8:36 am)

    plus the property owners have “other plans” for its future. ” There was a house on 42nd that had an awesome view we were thinking about how we could buy it a few years back. One of the reasons we did not was the view was over that bar. “How long until that corner turns into a view-blocking six-story, mixed use apartment building?” Well, lot sooner than I thought,

    • WSB July 9, 2019 (8:43 am)

      For the record, as noted above, it’s zoned for 40′, which is four stories. Doesn’t negate your point but someone else mentioned “high rise” which does not apply here either.

      • John July 11, 2019 (10:57 am)

        Tracy,Thank you for adding facts to oppose these false assertions.I appreciate debates when the facts, such as current zoning regulations, can be presented and debated rather than mis-statement peddling for arguments’ sake. 

  • max rebo July 9, 2019 (9:01 am)

    we made it 8 comments before someone complains about housing, as it relates (or not) to a business closing.   not bad y’all.   

  • Um, No! July 9, 2019 (9:16 am)

    While I’m sad to see this or any business come to an end,  I’m hoping the closure is partly a  good  sign that such a place is just not “as needed” in our community at this time?   At least to me,  every bar, restaurant, venue, etc in our area seems to be very supportive of everyone that comes in the doors.  In years past,  I absolutely think such a place was vital and needed in this or any community.  As the sign on the door says,  it’s a “Safe Place”.    I’d like to think we’ve been moving in the direction that every place is a safe place.  Not saying we’re completely there yet by any means but maybe this is a sign things are changing or have changed for the better. 

    • newnative July 9, 2019 (10:30 am)

      That’s what I was told about West Seattle before it ever opened. When I complained about the lack of gay bars, I was told that all bars in West Seattle are gay bars. However, OutWest has provided a particular outlet not seen in other venues. Hopefully there will be another incarnation of this place. 

    • Lagartija Nick July 9, 2019 (12:41 pm)

      I was egged by a passing car standing in front of Outwest a couple of years ago. So yes, visible venues for the LGBT community are still necessary.

  • Cynthia July 9, 2019 (9:55 am)

    Thanks to Bob and all of the bartenders and entertainers who made me feel safe and supported my coming out 2 years ago. I will miss you allCindy 

  • Barry Joseph July 9, 2019 (2:00 pm)

    Oh no!! This is terrible news!! This was my favorite bar to go to. I had many good nights and met many good fellas there. You will be sorely missed by this big bear! RIP OutwestB.J.F. 

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