When you first walk up to Supernova, a nightclub in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood that opened in 2021, a bouncer waves you through the doors and a go-go dancer ushers you through a mirrored hallway that filters onto a dancefloor. There, a DJ mixes music, foregrounded by a 10-foot-tall disco ball on the stage. With aerialists and drag queens spinning above you, the room pulses.
Part Studio 54, part arthouse, Supernova has made a splash in Seattle’s nightlife and LGBTQ scene since opening last year. Pictures of the venue made waves through social media; tweets discussed the inevitable entrance line weaving around the block. The club has tackled Seattle’s lack of artistic and escapist venues with its otherworldly installations and fulfilled its goal of becoming a safe space for all identities and orientations, making Supernova a home base for LGBTQ groups such as BeautyBoiz, a group that curates events for the queer community.
Supernova founder Zac Levine has worked in the Seattle entertainment scene since he was 14 years old. What started out as handing out flyers as a way to get into concerts for free later evolved into a focus on building community through creative nightlife entertainment. In 2016, Levine left his job producing concerts and events at Seattle nightclubs to create something of his own. “I got tired of four walls and a DJ booth,” Levine says. “I got tired of the lack of atmosphere and engagement. I wanted something more.”
Inside SoDo’s Orient Express Chinese restaurant, a series of renovated train cars formerly called Andy’s Diner, Levine launched Stayin’ Alive Disco. Interested in finding partners to continue a dynamic nightlife experience, Levine approached BeautyBoiz, a Seattle collective of queer producers and artists that curates events and media for the LGBTQ community. BeautyBoiz advocates for the queer community to have a claim on what beauty looks like and encourages expression, no matter how different or wild it manifests.
“That was what Zac was creating,” BeautyBoiz co-founder Wesley Frugé says. “And he was throwing a disco party, there’s nothing more gay than disco.”
Stayin’ Alive and BeautyBoiz had their first collaboration at the Seattle bar Monkey Loft in 2018. The event was a hit; soon, Levine and Frugé became close friends and business partners.
Every Saturday, Stayin’ Alive tapped into the soul of disco and brought out invigorating entertainment — drag queen hosts, a glitter station, live saxophone players, and bongos. The event quickly outgrew the diner’s 1100-square-foot space, and Levine was soon searching for ways to expand.
The origin of Supernova began with three years of raising funds and scouting venues. Set to open in 2020, COVID-19 interrupted Supernova’s launch and Levine spent the next year refining financial and venue details. Finally, on June 30, 2021, Supernova hosted its grand opening in a SoDo warehouse. Levine saw the new building as a “blank canvas,” and with every space — outside and in — filled with colorful and interactive art, Supernova emulates the new immersive nightlife that Levine envisioned.
“We don’t want this to be just a nightclub,” Levine says. “We want this to be an arts and entertainment experience.”
Attendees are immediately greeted by two colorful and massive murals as they pull up to the nightclub. Inside, they enter through the mirrored hallway that acts as a “portal to another dimension” and find themselves lost in what Levine calls a “360-degree” art piece with a secret photo booth, a sculpture of a unicorn suspended above the dancefloor, and a Verner Panton-inspired artist lounge.
To champion the ultimate nightlife experience, Supernova continued its partnership with BeautyBoiz. The collective was included in many of the club’s decisions, such as around staffing, music, and nightlife aesthetic. Together, Levine and BeautyBoiz created an entertainment atmosphere that goes above and beyond what is traditionally offered at Seattle queer clubs. Character actors, drag queens, go-gos, aerialists, and more often appear on a typical night — Supernova is also the only nightclub in the world to exclusively offer drag queen bottle service.
“We didn’t have to redefine a space,” Frugé says. “We got to define it from the beginning. And that’s what’s powerful about our partnership with Supernova. ... It’s a seat at the table from the beginning, not just pulling up a chair later. That’s how you build equity.”
Queer bars and clubs have historically been one of the few spaces where the LGBTQ community is able to gather safely. As a result, Supernova and BeautyBoiz strive to include everyone within the expansive community — especially queer people traditionally left out of mainstream gay culture, like trans people and people of color..
Bruno Baewatch, an assistant producer for BeautyBoiz and stage manager at Supernova, grew up struggling to find a nightclub that was both safe and free of judgment. Baewatch was raised in a religious household and later came out as trans. Club outings for Baewatch were filled with religious guilt and a constant fear of danger. “I was told [nightclubs] were dangerous for people with bodies like mine,” Baewatch says. “And the 1990s and 2000s media didn’t portray nightlife as a good environment.”
Trans individuals often experience harassment or are turned away at clubs for showing up in expression of themselves. Baewatch says this type of treatment can even happen in spaces that are advertised as queer. “Supernova refuses to be that,” Baewatch says. “We have all kinds of trans bodies there, mine included. We are at the bar, at the door, or on the stage dancing with you.”
Baewatch himself has his own personal story with Supernova. After a year of hormone replacement therapy, Baewatch started to document his journey as a trans man on social media. Though he was proud of the progress he made through bodybuilding, Baewatch encountered social media taking down his shirtless posts and unwanted stares in the club. He started to find ways to cover his chest through costumes or clothing.
“That took out a lot of my own confidence because it brought back this shame,” Baewatch says. “But at Supernova, I can be Bruno without filters. I don’t feel the need to rush my process. ... I can be topless simply because dancing makes me sweaty. I’m not misgendered or treated differently because of my identity.”
Levine says that with its spacious, creatively uninhibited venue, Supernova works to uplift others in the local entertainment industry. He hopes that the club will be an incubator for up-and-coming businesses, artists, and entertainers. Frugé sees Supernova growing as an expansive, inclusive venue for future LGBTQ groups and events.
“This is a place to come and express yourself,” Frugé says. “And ultimately that’s what the queer community is looking for — a place to come and be seen and celebrated.”