In a serious blow to incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn, a large group of club owners and nightlife-industry folks held a press conference at the Crocodile in Belltown this afternoon to announce their support for McGinn's opponent, state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill).
Murray, of course, sponsored legislation to eliminate an obscure tax on venues that provide an "opportunity to dance"—a tax that club owners had never been charged until the state auditor's office recently discovered the oversight. "It's somewhat of a bizarre tax and it's hard on some businesses," Murray said.
Among the former McGinn supporters who are now backing Murray: 5 Point Cafe owner and nightlife entrepreneur Dave Meinert; Crocodile Cafe owner and Local 360 owner Marcus Charles; and Neumos owners Mike Meckling and Steven Severin.
Also on the pro-Murray list: Showbox manager Jeff Steichen; Red Door owner Pete Hanning; Tango and Rumba owner Travis Rosenthal; Tractor owner Dan Cowan; and Bastille, Poquito's, and Von Trapp's owners James Weimann and Deming Maclise.
Jessie Summa-Kusiak, head of the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association, and founder of West Seattle's Skylark, cited Murray's successful opposition to the dance tax
At this afternoon's press conference, Jessie Summa-Kusiak, head of the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association, and founder of West Seattle's Skylark, cited Murray's successful opposition to the dance tax, saying the tax was "literally threatening the survival of several businesses" and that Murray "formed a bipartisan coalition that fought the law and ... pushed it through despite incredible odds."
Asked why Seattle clubs should be exempt from the tax—according to the fiscal note on the bill, eliminating the tax will cost the state nearly $900,000 in potential revenues this biennium, and slightly more than $1 million in the 2015-2017 biennium (and aren't Seattle progressives supposed to be against tax exemptions?)— Meckling responded that the tax was intended to target "Jazzercize," not dancing in nightclubs.
Asked whether they had voted for McGinn in his first race, against then-mayor Greg Nickels, in 2009, about half of the dozen or so nightlife representatives raised their hands. (So, interestingly, did Murray, who volunteered, "I voted for him!").
While the group acknowledged McGinn's progressive agenda, they said Murray was better at getting things done.
"We are concerned about issues around public safety, transportation, housing for artists, tourism, the waterfront redevelopment, social justice and equity, alongside the fundamentals of running the city, including such basic things as sidewalk and street repairs,” Summa-Kusiak said in a press statement.
“Many of these issues require leadership in the broader region and at the state level, as well as top notch experienced people running the city and its departments. Ed Murray has demonstrated he is the best candidate to deliver in that context, and as such we believe he is the clear choice to be Seattle’s next mayor.”
The nightlife community was disappointed that McGinn failed to extend bar hours. Today, Meinert said: "I think in order to get extended hours passed in the next four years, we need a myaor who can work with the City Attorney, City Council, County Executive, King County Sheriff, neighboring cities, and the governor, and I think Murray will be more able to do this than McGinn. In fact, I think McGinn has zero chance based on his relationships with those people to accomplish it." ...
"And [McGinn can't work with] the State Patrol," he added for good measure. (McGinn's sour relationship with Olympia reportedly squashed his play to extend bar hours during his first term.)
The nightlife industry endorsements—from the Tractor in Ballard, to the Wild Rose, a lesbian dive on Capitol Hill—complicate McGinn's efforts to portray Murray as the Mark Sidran establishment grump in the mayor's race.
Tango and Rumba owner Rosenthal, best known for opposing McGinn's parking policies (the mayor, with the support of the city council, increased parking rates in the center city and extended parking hours), called Murray "a fantastic leader through the past 18 years" he has served in the state house and senate.
Regarding parking rates, Murray added: "I don't think we have a formula that actually looks at the market and whether the neighborhood can acually bear the cost."
The club owners said they planned to not just max out to Murray—which several, including Meinert and Severin have already done—but to use their social-media contacts to raise money for Murray and to host fundraisers for him at their venues. In 2009, Meinert and the Stranger newspaper hosted a fundariser at the Crocodile for McGinn. This year, the Stranger, a local nightlife industry booster, has stuck by incumbent McGinn.
The nightlife industry endorsements—from the Tractor in Ballard, to the Wild Rose, a lesbian dive on Capitol Hill, to the El Corazon heavy metal dive under the Denny I-5 ramp—complicate McGinn's efforts to portray Murray as the Mark Sidran establishment grump in the mayor's race.