Sound & Vision: Seattle’s Legendary Venue The Crocodile Secures New, Expanded Home in Belltown

Sound and Vision
photo by Victoria Holt
Interview by Emily Fox, Web Copy by Isaac Kaplan-Woolner

In the midst of the pandemic, and subsequent extended shut down of live entertainment, good news in the world of Seattle music and arts can seem hard to come by. But one of Seattle's mainstay music venues is moving and expanding. 

Last week it was announced that The Crocodile is moving about a block away from its current and original location in Belltown. It will move into the building that formerly housed El Gaucho Steakhouse. The building also includes an 18 room hotel, space for a smaller second room for performances, and some music history of its own. 

The Crocodile’s managing partner Adam Wakeling joined KEXP to share the good news. Wakeling said it was a sink or swim move for the Croc.

“It really was down to either we figure out how to take this leap and move forward and make this happen or we shut the doors forever. Because like everybody else, we've gone through the money. The PPP loan and the other things that we had to keep alive are gone. They're gone now like everybody else, you know, eight months without being open.”

The Crocodile has been at its original location and the corner of 2nd and Blanchard in Belltown since 1991. It closed in December 2007, and reopened after a lengthy renovation in March 2009. The venue has hosted a who’s who of legendary Seattle and touring bands, like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Beastie Boys, and even Yoko Ono. 

Wakeling said the building’s owners decided to end lease negotiations and not renew with The Crocodile. With the clock ticking, it was time to find a new home. They landed on the former El Gaucho steakhouse building, which allows for a larger main stage room, and other smaller rooms for different types of performances. Plus, an 18-room boutique hotel on top. 

“It's crazy. I mean, it's a full on, like, entertainment complex.  So the main room we're looking at probably being 750 capacity, which is where the steakhouse proper for El Gaucho was that we think is going to be about 750. Downstairs looks like it's going to be 250-300 capacity along with that. That was the Pampas Room. It's also split in half. And in the other half was The Big Picture, which was a second run movie theater. [...] And we're looking at that as probably still do some movies, do some comedy, podcasts or whatever seems to fit inside that space. It's just another opportunity to book more things.”

Wakeling said the new Crocodile is picking up the reigns of music and entertainment at the new building. The former Pampas Room has some top notch musical history of its own. 

“In the mid 90s, Infinite Productions, Lori LeFavor, who's done stuff in Seattle for years, she put on some shows there. And she did Radiohead, Elastica, Bikini Kill, Korn, some really amazing shows... Built to Spill. And that was ‘95, ‘96, right before El Gaucho took over the building. And she moved over to Rkcndy at that point and started doing shows there.” 

As for the Crocodile’s move, it is of course bittersweet for some, and Wakeling doesn’t downplay the sadness some music fans with decades of memories in that building will feel. 

“It's a big deal to move out of space that has been here for for 30 years as a music venue, and a big part of Seattle's music history was created in this room. [...] But a big part of what The Crocodile is are the people; the people that work here, the people that come here, the neighborhood... thankful we're still in the same neighborhood. We're really excited that we got to stay in Belltown because that was kind of a key thing for us.”

There is no reopening date yet announced for The Crocodile in its new home. And of course, it will be some time before live music returns to Seattle. Wakeling speculated there may be in person concerts again by fall of 2021. But of course, much remains unknown at this point. 

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