McMenamins, the Folks Behind Portland's Crystal Ballroom, are Opening a Live Music Venue (or Two) In Tacoma

Bands like Philadelphia's Dr. Dog could one day be choosing between a Seattle club and a new McMenamins venue in Tacoma.
McMenamins, the company/family behind just about every place to drink in Portland, the popular music venue the Crystal Ballroom, and Seattle watering holes such as Cap Hill's Six Arms and Queen Anne's McMenamins, are bringing multiple restaurants, several bars, a hotel, and a live music venue (or two) to the old Elks Lodge in Tacoma. It's a long-coming project, and the company hopes to have the doors open in early 2013.

The building includes two ballrooms that could be used for live music venues. And though they don't know exactly what the capacity, programming, or frequency will be, it could mean more competition for clubs and venues in Seattle, which isn't exactly lacking for rooms to hold shows.

"We could have capacities of like 300 and 600 or maybe 600 and closer to 1000," says Jimi Biron, McMenamins' director of entertainment programming and venue development, who oversees programming at the Crystal Ballroom. "We're in the process of trying to determine what programming makes the most sense."

The Crystal Ballroom books a wide swath of bands like moe., Dr. Dog, and the Reverend Horton Heat, which have upcoming Seattle dates at the Showbox at the Market, The Neptune, and El Corazon, respectively. If the new Tacoma venue were to become something of a second stop for bands that played the Crystal Ballroom, it could mean extra competition for the aforementioned clubs.

But Biron's not sure there isn't room for tour stops in Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle. But breaking the three cities into distinctive markets hasn't been tried consistently over the long term in recent memory. Biron also mentioned that the new space may be best suited to host a band on their second run through the area in support of a new record, rather than playing in the Seattle metro area again.

For the moment, Biron says there are no firm plans, and that it's still too early to say exactly what the venue -- or venues -- will become. But he says he wants to play nice, and doesn't want the room to be destructive or disruptive to the region's live music ecosystem.

"We want to make sure we work with the region," Biron says. "We want to work with the clubs and promoters in the area and find our proper place."

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