This is a milestone year for a Seattle nightlife giant. Capitol Hill’s wild French circus-arcade-and-Jello-shot destination Unicorn not only celebrates its 10th anniversary this month, but co-owner Adam Heimstadt has been busy prepping its long-in-the-works White Center offshoot. He’s slowly, but steadily, made progress for the past two-plus years on the location at 9832 17th SW, and hopes to finally open its doors by the end of 2020. Though there have been delays and setbacks, Heimstadt relishes every column painted and brick put in place. “I love what I do,” he says.
As one can tell from the current construction photos below and on the bar’s Instagram page, there is still much work to be done — but the 15,000-square-foot space is impressively cavernous, with an arched roof and a giant bar that, when completed, may be the longest in Seattle, according to Heimstadt. He and his wife, Kayleigh Wilson, have purchased the La Camera building that spans the block between 16th and 17th SW, and are in the process of refurbishing old carnival antiques, including Tilt-a-Whirls, chandeliers in the shape of hot air balloons, and teacup booths that will rotate (eventually). Heimstadt has even been scouting out possible rides to showcase in the parking lot.
The former bartender with a strong artistic streak has been so busy working that he’s barely had time to reflect on his original bar’s long run. “Ten years have been incredible,” Heimstadt says of the Capitol Hill spot, which gained national notoriety, thanks in part to an appearance on Anthony Bourdain’s Travel Channel’s show The Layover in 2014. “I’m dumbfounded, but also appreciative of the success we’ve had.”
Though he recognizes that Unicorn and its downstairs sibling Narwhal have a reputation as a “goofy place where kids go to celebrate turning 21,” he embraces the role it’s played in developing such a lively atmosphere on Pike Street, and seems to have no plans on leaving that neighborhood any time soon.
But Heimstadt is especially excited about laying down roots in White Center. He and Wilson have already started renting out spaces to local businesses, including a bar, a nail salon, a barbershop, and a tattoo parlor (which Heimstadt co-owns). Once the new Unicorn outpost is in shape, things may just turn into one big block party. “There will be performances, a huge game room, the famous claw game [from the original Unicorn], and just weird, oddball stuff,” Heimstadt says. “All I do is seem to ruin priceless antiques.”