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Black and Tan Hall Looks to the Past to Develop a Racially-Inclusive Business

The cooperative company will function as restaurant, music venue, and more

Black and Tan Hall/FB

A new project in Hillman City aims to unite the diverse neighborhood, reviving a Jazz Age music hall concept in the process. The forthcoming Black and Tan Hall will operate with a cooperative-style business model, providing a combination of elements like music venue, workshop space, and restaurant. It's currently being built out inside the former home of Maxim’s, the long-shuttered karaoke and comedy show venue at 5608 Rainier Avenue S.

Eater checked in with the owners, who are hoping to have at least part of the concept ready by mid-January. As is usually the case, they’re beholden to the permit process to complete their work. "We’re opening in stages, which has us opening the breakfast/brunch portion for the first couple months, then adding dinner in March along with performances/entertainment," co-owner Ben Hunter told Eater.

The project takes its name and concept from racially inclusive Black and Tan clubs that were popularized in the 1920s and 30s and yet seem as relevant and radical as ever in today's world. A South Seattle Emerald preview provides historical background: "Throughout America’s racist history of Jim Crow laws, red-lining, colorism and other discrimination, Black & Tan clubs allowed people to come together across racial lines to make music and build community. Seattle’s own Black & Tan Club operated from 1932 to 1966 on 12th and Jackson and boasted some of the biggest headliners in jazz and soul," including Duke Ellington.

The new club is headed by Hunter, Rodney Herold, and chef Tarik Abdullah, who will lead the restaurant portion. Abdullah has made a name for himself largely through pop-ups like his Morningstar Café and Midnight Mecca events, both focusing on Mediterranean and Caribbean food. He also competed on ABC’s "The Taste."

A peek at a late-night happy hour menu on Facebook shows dishes like sweet potato waffle fries with smoked aioli, black-eyed pea hummus, and lamb sliders with olive tapenade, feta, tomatoes, and date molasses.

Hunter, Abdullah, and Herold are hoping to create a "community-run business," a form of cooperative, by allowing community members to buy partnership shares and have a voice in how the company is run. The trio has devised relatively low investment levels to make buying-in more accessible. The Black and Tan Hall website includes an application and lays out details of the investment’s sliding scale, which factors in annual unpaid labor hours plus a one-time financial contribution.

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