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Capitol Hill welcomes Gemini Room

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Photo courtesy of Tanner Mclaughlin / Gemini Room
Photo courtesy of Tanner Mclaughlin / Gemini Room

The Gemini Room opened its doors to customers for its first day of business on December 16, in the former Capitol Hill location of the beloved Cafe Pettirosso at 1101 E. Pike St. Though the new business, like the old one, is a cafe and bar, the Gemini brings something new to the Hill with its late hours, calm vibes, and an interior design that fosters a communal atmosphere.

"It has been great," said co-founder Tanner Mclaughlin of the joint's opening day. "Of course, we're a new business, so there's always kinks to work out that we don't foresee until you open the doors. But so far the feedback has been incredible. We have, and are a part of, an incredible community up here, and they have definitely showed up for us, so we can't be more thankful."

Photo courtesy of Tanner Mclaughlin / Gemini Room  

Friends and colleagues of Mclaughlin had been filing in all afternoon to offer their congratulations and try some of the fare, but they were far from the only patrons.

When I entered the place from 11th Avenue, a few solo visitors were resting their elbows on the high two-person tables at the front. Small groups passed in and out of the orbit of the central coffee table in the lounge, where Mclaughlin and three others were sitting in armchairs and chatting.

I ordered a breakfast sandwich and an americano, and took my number to a coffee table in a corner of the lounge. The color scheme of the room was autumnal, with browns, yellows, oranges, and golds, steering clear of any red for the most part. Both the lighting and the music were clear and gentle. The loudest thing in the room was a child laughing at the antics of a lean, black dog.

Photo courtesy of Tanner Mclaughlin / Gemini Room  

The person responsible for interior decoration, Mclaughlin said, was none other than Murf Hall. For those unfamiliar with the business side of Capitol Hill, Hall and his husband, Joey Burgess, own a good portion of Capitol Hill's most iconic Queer businesses, like Elliott Bay Book Company, Queer/Bar, and the Cuff Complex. Together with their associates, they're known as the Burgess/Hall Group, and they've seen their businesses (some they recently bought) through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part of Burgess/Hall's mission, Mclaughlin explained, was to "preserve" Capitol Hill's spirit as a center for minority-owned businesses, and by extension make it a friendly place for people who are Queer, BIPOC, or from other diverse communities.

Photo courtesy of Tanner Mclaughlin / Gemini Room  

That intention extends all the way to how the Gemini Room's seating is set up. A long bench extends from the far back corner, encouraging communal seating, and something that looks like a reading nook occupies another spot. Many of the chairs face each other, but there's nothing stopping patrons from moving a chair or table from one spot to another.

"I think Gemini Room is definitely designed in a way to be what you want it to be," Mclaughlin said. "It can be communal if you want it to be, or you are more than welcome to have your own intimate corner."

Mclaughlin was responsible for the place's branding. She went with the name Gemini Room "because it speaks to the duality of the day to night service, so it's like the light twin [and] the dark twin," she said. "And that plays into the logo with the double-headed snake."

The string of lights along the ceiling, behind a facade of wooden slats, will change from white to other colors during the evening, to fit the nighttime mood.

I'm not into astrology, and I can say with confidence that Mclaughlin didn't go overboard with the zodiac theme at the Gemini. Many of the patterns and designs of the furniture felt as if they were drawn from the 1960s or 70s, with some of the armchairs seemingly dip painted. But there was no tie-dye or big star charts, nor a huge array of zodiac-themed drinks or food. And that, Mclaughlin said, was intentional.

"We wanted it to be as close to a theme bar without being a theme bar," she said.

Photo courtesy of Tanner Mclaughlin / Gemini Room  

The americano was well-rounded, and not overly bitter or sour, which was a good sign for the other espresso drinks. The breakfast sandwich was both substantial and delicious, which, at its price, was basically required. Mind, while it was double the cost of your standard Starbucks sandwich, it left me deeply content rather than bloated.

As for the future, there are some events in the works — for instance, a New Year's Eve party — but unlike so many other late-night destinations on Capitol Hill, the Gemini Room will maintain a much more mellow atmosphere, Mclaughlin said.

"It's definitely the place to come to before you go to the club, or in lieu of the club, or if you're just not a crazy party person," she said. "You can go on a date, you can read a book, you can have a more wild night out, [or] you can spend time with friends."

You can learn more about the Gemini Room at https://www.thegeminiroom.com/.