Days after a devastating fire destroyed the Lumber Yard Bar and damaged seven other businesses in White Center, the King County Sheriff’s Office began investigating it as an arson case. Now, the owners of the Lumber Yard — a popular LGBTQIA+ venue — believe it may be a hate crime.
At around 1:40 a.m. on July 5, a two-alarm fire burned through several commercial buildings near the corner of 16th Ave SW and Roxbury, including the Lumber Yard, divey Dottie’s Double Wide, a still-in-the-works boba tea shop, and Mexican specialty grocer La Tipica Oaxaqueña. Authorities say the blaze appears to have started at the Lumber Yard before spreading — and while the sheriff’s office initially classified the fire as an accident, new evidence has led the department to open an arson investigation.
Shortly after the reclassification, the Lumber Yard Bar posted a July 9 message on its Facebook page that said “this most likely is also a hate crime” and asked those with any knowledge of the incident to assist authorities in the investigation. Co-owner Michale Farrar pointed to a break-in a month ago as reason for suspicion and told the White Center Blog that there were “anti-gay tags” on the windows of the bar in the week leading up to the fire. “There is evidence to suggest that they are all connected,” Farrar said.
Even before the arson case developed, the White Center community started rallying to help several businesses pick up the pieces. White Center Pride set up a GoFundMe campaign page for the Lumber Yard — the neighborhood’s first gay bar, which opened in early 2018 — and reached its $100,000 goal for recovery efforts within days. Meanwhile, the family-owned La Tipica Oaxaqueña also has a fire damage recovery fund set up on GoFundMe, as does Dottie’s Double Wide (recently purchased by former bartender Sole Salazar) and a boba and bingsoo shop called Nuggi that had been under construction when the fire struck.
In a statement, White Center Pride said it was “deeply disturbed and saddened” to learn about the potential arson. “We will continue to stand with all of the businesses and individuals that were impacted by this horrible act,” the organization said. “Our community is strong and will never back down in the face of adversity.”
Eater Seattle reached out to the Lumber Yard owners and the King County Sheriff’s Office for further comment but did not hear back before this article was published. It will be updated as more information comes in.