by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
In a four-story building at the corner of Boylston and Pine sits R Place, a bar and dance club that is a staple of the Seattle LGBT community. If those walls could talk, they would have plenty to say, I'm sure.
For over 20 years, members of the local Gay population have danced, drunk, and sung the hours away in the confines of the notorious watering hole. When you've been around for so long, it is easy for the community to take your presence for granted. Keeping that in mind, R Place owners Rick and Steve, alongside general manager Floyd Lovelady, know that no matter what, you've got to keep things moving. Sometimes that means a shakeup of the calendar of events.
'R Place is a forever-changing bar,' Lovelady told Seattle Gay News. 'We are constantly trying to keep the bar new and fresh.'
In 20 years, a lot has changed at R Place. In 1989 the bar moved from its old location on the Hill to its current one. Bob and Tom, the owners at the time, and Rick (then-manager), had only opened two floors of the establishment and served only beer and wine. The vibe was sports-oriented, with a jukebox and pull-tabs.
'It had more of a pub feel to it,' explained Lovelady. 'Several years later the third floor was opened. They still kept the sports bar feel and beer and wine, but added more dartboards and pool tables.'
Basically, he said, R Place was a 'very large Gay sports bar with plenty of R Place-sponsored Gay sports teams to fill it.'
In 1997, Rick and Steve, the current owners, bought the bar and decided to make some changes. In 1999, R Place moved away from just offering customers beer and wine and became the full bar it remains today. In 2000, a dance floor was added.
Lovelady was hired in 2001. Eventually, he said, the third floor became 'more like a dance and entertainment bar, with packed karaoke shows filled with boys shoulder-to-shoulder almost every day of the week.'
If you've ever spent any amount of time - be it great or small - with Lovelady, you get the feeling that he is very proud of the bar. 'We are constantly changing with the times,' he said. 'But what doesn't change at R Place is the great staff, loyal customers, and support for the community and Gay sports organizations.'
One of the reasons for the bar's success is their weekly calendar of events.
In 2001, Lovelady and company created the famous Thursday-night Amateur Strip Show - more commonly known as ASS - when they added the strip pole. 'The liquor laws in our city prohibited us from serving alcohol and paying performers to strip,' he explains. 'That's why clubs like DejaVu and others, who employ female dancers, only serve beer and wine. But I thought, 'What if it was a contest and the clientele was allowed to strip?' We checked with the liquor board and were given the thumbs-up! That's how ASS was born!'
Management also created a Wednesday night show called Queerfactor in which contestants were asked to do disgusting things for a chance to win $200. 'Both ASS and Queerfactor were a hit, and the weekends got fuller and fuller,' said Lovelady. 'I think Queerfactor lasted about two years before we, like the TV show [Fear Factor], ran out of outrageous fun things to ask people to do.'
'Then we invented Wet & with a twist,' he told SGN. 'We also had them do porn karaoke, where contestants would watch an edited porn movie and do the voiceover and sound. Then, audience members would vote on which of the porn karaoke contestants would get to move on to the Wet round. Due to the costly and timely nature of editing porn videos to please the liquor board, eventually we decided that people would be happy with just seeing boys in wet underwear.'
In addition to weekday events, R Place beefed up their weekends by adding the Friday and Saturday night Lashes Drag Cabaret starring Lady Chablis, Sharon Huzbenz, DonnaTella Howe, La Saveona Hunt, Fraya Love, and Brooke Lynn Bradshaw, with guest spots from some of RuPaul's Drag Race's most popular contestants.
Once again, change is in the air. Lovelady reached out to SGN to talk about some of the exciting new changes the bar has made. 'Monday nights at R Place are a big hit with the addition of RuPaul's Drag Race,' he said. 'People watch the show and cheer for their favorite contestants.'
The first three Monday nights in March are sure to be fun, with Mariah from Drag Race's third season hosting on March 5, Jujubee on March 12, and season four standout Kenya Michaels on March 19.
ASS has moved to Wednesday night, and, for the time being, Wet is on hiatus. 'It's very hard to get boys to sign up to do the Wet show when it's 30 degrees outside,' joked Lovelady. 'We may bring it back in the summertime.'
'People love the strip show,' he continued. 'Eleven years is a long time for a show, and it will remain at R Place for years to come. Who doesn't like to see hot boys strip and climb a pole?'
Thirsty Thursday, R Place's new Thursday night, has caught a lot of attention. 'This is a party to give our customers the best music, the way we know how to do it,' Lovelady said. 'Thirsty Thursdays will include drag performances by national and local stars, drink specials, and hot go-go boys. And we're bringing in some new boys you've never seen before, as well as our regulars. We figure rather than a 15-20 minute show of boys stripping, you're getting hours and hours of half-naked boys.'
'R Place's very own DJ Flow will be playing the music that has made R Place one of the best dance clubs in the city,' he continued. 'And we're doing it all for the same cover price of $3. The first 25 people who come in and check in on Facebook get in for free!'
'We're not afraid to try new things. In this business, you can't become complacent or stagnant,' Lovelady concluded. 'With the constant opening of new bars and new clients, you have to be on your toes. And we take it as a challenge to try and invent parties and reinvent the bar on a consistent basis year after year. We will continue to do so, as customers will see in the coming months.'
'We have some exciting changes coming up inside the bar as well,' he said. 'But I won't say too much. Come in and check it out and let us know what you think!'
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