Black & Tan Hall, 2016-2019
Community members began meeting to create the structure of our company in 2016. As the following articles and timeline demonstrate, the excitement in the larger community was reflected in a steady stream of articles in the press.
For a thorough introduction to what we were striving for in the beginning, it is helpful check out this feature article from City Arts Magazine and this video feature of Chef Tarik Abdullah alongside another iconic South Seattle artist, Shabazz Palaces.
Seattle’s rapid development, struggles in convincing the previous owners of what improvements were necessary to legally open the building, and intermittent phases of internal development and renovations--while hosting external events--all contributed to an odyssey of an experience just to try to open the doors of Black & Tan Hall.
It is important to emphasize that, while our three founding partners--Rodney Herold, Tarik Abdullah, and Benjamin Hunter--are featured frequently in the articles that follow, there were (and are) literally dozens of other partners working, joining, and attending regular meetings throughout the five years that we have been working to open our building.
One such partner is our General Manager, Karen Toering, who is the founder and director of the Gary International Black Film Festival, and one of Seattle's most influential people. You can learn more about KT in this feature from the South Seattle Emerald's Revolutionary Women series. There are too many other remarkable partners to mention here, which is why this blog will be featuring our partners one by one in video interviews going forward.
Black & Tan Hall partners, 2018
Here are highlights from the first four years of our journey:
On August 3rd, Crosscut published one of the first feature articles describing outlining a vision of the Hall:
“[Rodney] Herold set the Black and Tan Hall plan in motion last year. He saw the building go up for lease in December and immediately started talking to its new owner, James Ackley, owner of Bob’s Quality Meats in Columbia City, north of Hillman City.
"We are looking at the gentrification in Columbia City. It is poised to happen like a big tsunami coming our way,” Herold explains. "I realized ownership of the property is the only way to hold our ground.’”
On October 24th this lengthy feature article was published, with Tarik & Ben presenting their vision for the Hall:
“Abdullah finishes Hunter’s thought: “…It wasn’t a one-night thing. Just like it was normal in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s for the average Black male to wear a suit, it was the same thing with theatre and live music. You dress up and go out and enjoy the show. It’s what people did.”
“Anybody could come here if you abide by this code, where everyone is equal,” Hunter says; he’s speaking simultaneously of the old Black and Tan and the new one. “There is no discrimination if you walk through this door. We’re repeating history in so many different ways societally right now, so why not bring back some of the other aspects of 100 years ago that exemplify the beauty of society?” The Black and Tan is an old idea re-energized, and judging by America’s charged social climate, the timing couldn’t be better.”
Local designer and performing artist Alicia Radford designed the Black & Tan Hall logo during this year of development—here she talks a bit about the process on her blog:
On September 19th, Seattle Eater posted notice that (we thought) the Hall was close to opening:
Then, they posted a follow up that acknowledged the struggles and process our business was going through in November:
“Black and Tan Hall, the new racially-inclusive cultural and culinary center in Hillman City, has seemed very close to opening for quite a while now. Yet the project, which was announced last December, has faced numerous delays stemming from issues rehabing the 100-year-old building it occupies. Meanwhile, founders Ben Hunter, Rodney Herold, and chef Tarik Abdullah have decided to roll out events and dinners, held in other locations, while the hall’s build out finishes.
For now, Black and Tan Hall will act as “an event presenter and cuisine company serving Seattle,” according to a release. While the venture’s 47 owner-investors work to complete sprinkler installations and structural upgrades, the company, dubbed Black and Tan Hall Presents, is organizing performing arts events, catering, pop-ups, and cooking classes in venues around the city.
Each event will serve as a Black and Tan Hall preview, channeling the spirit of the original 1920s- and ‘30s-era Black and Tan Clubs, which emphasized racial inclusivity at a time of stark segregation.”
In January, Seattle’s jazz publication featured the Hall on their magazine’s cover:
“We wanted to make this a community-owned business,” says Hunter, “so that people who live here are able to buy into something, and have a say, as to who, what, when, and where, and to put the people who have that history in charge of their own destiny, in terms of what happens in this neighborhood.”
Though it may sound utopian, the plan is solidly grounded in financial realities. Hunter explains: “We spent a really long time working out the legalities of it, and the structure of it, and how we wanted people to participate – how we wanted people to invest, and how we wanted people to own the business.…I think we’ve created something really cool, that I hope serves as a precedent for other models in the future.”
The following month, B&TH Presents partnered with Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry to co-host an elegant and educational event together:
“Join jazz historian Paul de Barros, author of Jackson Street After Hours, as he moderates this exploration of the Black & Tan past and present. Hear from one of the founders of the highly-anticipated Black & Tan Hall and enjoy live jazz music from the era when the original club thrived and jived in the Central Area.
Taste a sample of edible delights prepared by Chef Tarique Abdullah of the new Black & Tan Hall. Remember the evening with a photo preserved in a souvenir replica of the original Black and Tan’s photo folio.”
That summer, the Hall’s string of partnership events continued, as Black & Tan Hall Presents collaborated with the Seattle Art Museum:
“Like the sculpture park itself, all Summer at SAM programs are free, open to the public, and all-ages. So check us out Thursdays and Saturdays, July 13 through August 31 and get active in your city with concerts, art making, food trucks, and fitness. In their own words, get to know two of Summer at SAM’s partner organizations for events such as the Kickoff next Thursday, July 13 from 6–8 pm produced in partnership with Black & Tan Hall and our Saturday art activity led by artists of the Lion’s Main Art Collective.”
We rounded out the year by launching a new annual event, The Black & Tan Hall-i-Day party. This event features a host of local vendors: artisans and craftspeople whose goods make exceptional holiday gifts for all of our community members. The 1st Annual Hall-i-Day celebration included a Family Karaoke night:
Our company hosted multiple pop up brunch events featuring Chef Tarik’s cooking downtown at the Pike Place Market:
That winter, we continued the Hall-i-Day celebration:
Black & Tan Hall is hosting their 2nd annual Hall-i-Day Celebration at the Hillman City Collaboratory on Saturday, December 15. There will be food by Chef Tarik Abdullah, crafts from local vendors, and live entertainment. Come by and shop their unique market atmosphere and receive complimentary gift wrapping! Their family-friendly Hall-i-Day Celebration is for all ages and will have free activities for kids. Please bring a donation of non-perishable food for the Rainier Valley Food Bank. We hope to see you there and share some Hall-i-day cheer!
B&TH Presents continued doing events, and again featured Chef Tarik’s cooking in a pop up brunch event at the Pike Place Atrium:
More information on one of our co-founders:
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More on early jazz clubs in Seattle—with a few choice paragraphs about the importance of the original Black & Tan Club: