The Comeback: R Place rises again

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The Comeback's owner Floyd Lovelady — Photo by Nate Gowdy
The Comeback's owner Floyd Lovelady — Photo by Nate Gowdy

Everybody loves a comeback, or, in this case, The Comeback, the new home of the now-shuttered bar R Place. Floyd Lovelady, longtime general manager of R Place, plans to open a new, 9,000-square-foot bar and nightclub catering to the LGBTQIA+ community at 1950 1st Ave. S. in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood. The new location is just two blocks from T-Mobile Park and was once home to Eden Seattle, an event rental space, bar, and nightclub.

Photo by Nate Gowdy  

"The building was a shell. We took the soul of R Place and are plugging it into this new space," Lovelady told the SGN this week during a tour of the space. "We bought everything from inside R Place to give people that familiarity, and of course we're bringing back the shows and the music and the dynamic performers that put R Place and Seattle on the map, as far as a destination LGBTQIA establishment."

R Place owners Steve Timmons and Richard Elander announced last February that the popular Capitol Hill bar had lost its lease and that they were seeking to reopen at a new location. A statement on the bar's Facebook page noted that "R Place has been a staple in the Gay community for over 35 years" and that it was their "intention to reopen" once Gov. Jay Inslee lifted his stay-at-home order early in the pandemic. However, plans changed after the owner of the building passed away and his estate declined to renew the bar's lease.

In the end, Timmons and Elander decided to move on and hand over the legacy to Lovelady and former R Place patron John Fish, who are now co-managing partners on the project. They formed The Comeback Seattle LLC and took over R Place's social media accounts. Lovelady managed R Place for 20 years and previously worked at the Revolver in West Hollywood for three years before coming to Seattle. Fish told the SGN that he "grew up" at R Place in his 20s and "was excited... to be able to help bring back a space and community that we all love." He has a background in business management and operations and will be doing most of the behind the scenes work.

"I cannot wait to tell the community all the things we have in store for them. This really has been at the core of what we want to do from the beginning. It was one of my first conversations with John to make sure we were aligned and that we are going to give back to the community in as many ways as we can," said Lovelady. "This is going to be from providing good wages to our staff, doing volunteer work, and making charitable donations, et cetera. The community needs as many safe spaces and places to be yourself as we can get, and we only succeed when we are working to help everyone succeed."

Lovelady added that as much as he wishes R Place could stay on Capitol Hill, a variety of factors led him to look elsewhere; finding a suitable space at a reasonable cost was the biggest one. Seattle noise ordinances and new apartment buildings going up all over the Hill were also considerations.

"SoDo not only welcomed us, the SoDo Business Improvement Association reached out to us and invited us to come check out this location," Lovelady said. "After searching all over this city, we just felt SoDo would be the best fit. It's so central. It's the hub of Seattle, made to have easy access to hold large events. You can get there by the light rail, from the tunnel, by water taxi or ferry.

"Plus, being in the industrial district next to warehouses and shipping containers would allow us to be as loud as we wanted, which became an issue at R Place with all the new apartment buildings going up. I used to have to go outside with a decibel reader to monitor our sound level. It wasn't just the music. It was the screams from the crowds.

Photo by Nate Gowdy  

"We felt strongly that SoDo was a great nightlife spot for Seattle. Being able to find a space that is versatile enough for many different kinds of events was key, and in a location that has plenty of parking as long as it's not during game days, which usually end well before 10 p.m."

The space is ADA-accessible, with all the public areas on the same floor. A large open space featuring an impressive stage and long bar is among the most obvious amenities. The new space also features an assortment of equally impressive private areas that include a large prep kitchen with a new walk-in fridge and an office overlooking everything.

"The bar is designed to have a few different modular ways to be able to have a great experience no matter the day or time," said Lovelady. "We will for sure have plenty of TVs to watch the games or pregame before you head to the stadiums. There is an amazing stage that we will be utilizing for drag shows and many other entertainment options."

The Comeback will also feature a number of familiar faces from R Place. Among them is Brett Lee, returning as head security host. He previously held the position of assistant security manager for several years, and Lovelady says Lee has "a half a decade of management experience in fast-paced environments."

"We are thankful to have a lot of the prior staff from R Place returning to bring that familiar feel we all love," Lovelady said. "We will be announcing them all over the next few weeks on our social media pages, so make sure to give us a like/follow at The Comeback Seattle."

Lovelady consulting with his architect, Ace Houston — Photo by Nate Gowdy  

Ace Houston of House Cosmopolitan is the architect principally responsible for the design of The Comeback. Houston, who studied architectural design at the University of Texas and considers himself a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, also spoke with the SGN this week.

"I hope the site becomes a destination for the LGBTQ community to gather — those from all slices of life under the umbrella — and celebrate ourselves and our community in many different ways," he said. "This project is important to me because it represents the continuation of local Capitol Hill history in spirit as well as a new chapter for what part or parts of Seattle have created their own safe spaces for LGBTQ Seattleites.

"It's been great to work with an excellent team that wants to do right by our community. It's only the start of this project and so I am looking forward to the days ahead of opening."

According to Lovelady, who received a small business loan to finance The Comeback, they plan to open in December 2021 — assuming the permits and liquor licenses are approved promptly. He also announced a crowdfunding program, which features generous incentives to ensure "a sense of ownership" among Seattle's LGBTQIA+ community.

The Indiegogo funding page invites donors to be a "part of making this new LGBTQIA bar come to fruition" and that the "crowdfunding [go] to help cover the renovation costs of the new building, and create this new, amazing space." The perks include an opening weekend general admission ticket for $25 and The Comeback "Gold Pass" for $1,000.

Photo by Nate Gowdy  

"This is a true comeback story," said Lovelady. "This has been a dream of mine for a long time. We're the guys who grew up in this community. We're the Davids in a world full of Goliaths.

"This pandemic took so much away. Took away homes and apartments. Shuttered the doors of hundreds of businesses in this city... This is our home. We're here to help rebuild our community. To help give people a place to get away from all the anxiety and stress in this world. To help in the comeback of this city that we love."

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