Holly Rock in the Spokane Valley is Open, but is the Spokane Valley?

Posted: November 24, 2011 in Opening Business in Spokane Valley, Spokane Valley Bars
Tags: , , ,

Robin Tuttle and gang recently took over the premises and what little business remained at the old Hotteez in the Spokane Valley on Raymond just north or Sprague. In a move that I admired and appreciated, they shut down the operation for 2 days in order to deep clean the place as I am positive had not been done since  the Sea Galley days back in the mid 80’s when Elaine worked there.

We stopped in recently on the way back from the WSU/Arizona game down in Pullman. Not being night owls, we took advantage of being out late to check out what the Valley’s first gay bar might look like in the hours after our bed time.

It was mostly as I would have expected from a gay bar recently opened in the Valley, but there were a few surprises. It was fairly slow and the crowd was not over-crowding but they were getting into the scene more than I was prepared for. By that I mean that while it was not a scene out of the movie Cruising, there was plenty of hot dancing and at least one same-sex couple making out in plain and unavoidable view. To further set the alternative lifestyle mood, a few queens with demeanors of  drama occupied a barstool or two.

I had no problem with all of this since I was in a gay bar where I felt it best to live and let live. I am not a critic of gays or their hangouts, but I did not like being frisked on my way in. I was more surprised by this than anything and I let them know it and Elaine actually refused to allow them to touch her when they attempted to pat her down after she returned from the bathroom and wanted to join me . They refused to let her even enter the bar, where I was waiting with a round, to tell me she was leaving.

Elaine called me as she walked across the parking lot to the Monkey Bar and I joined her as soon as I finished my drink. Ironically, the bouncer who frisked her came over too and I had the opportunity to ask him why they thought they had to frisk their patrons and then tell him why I thought it was a terrible idea.

He told me that since Hollyrock was the first gay bar in the Valley and since they had received a few threats ( which I find dubious), they were doing it to protect their clientele. I told him that was BS and unfortunate for everyone. If somebody wants to blow away someone at a bar they are going to do it just like crazies do when they walk into a McDonald’s in California or  an Air Force base in Texas.

On the one hand, I don’t like it on a personal level because I don’t want to go anywhere besides the airport or courthouse that I have to go through security for weapons. Actually, I don’t like going to either one of those places any more than I have to but sometimes I have to. The Holly Rock is sending the message that it is a dangerous place to go even though they are intending to send the message that they are protecting their patrons. Like I said, if someone wants to start shooting up the place, they’ll just start with the guy who wants to frisk them.

Then on a less personal note but still a bit offending, I take objection to the idea that the Valley would be more dangerous for a gay bar than downtown where the gay bars don’t frisk their clientele. We may be further east, but this is not Aryan Nations territory any more than the Northside is less tolerant because it is closer to the backwoods home of the MLK Parade would-be bomber.

All this being said, I can forgive HollyRock for their paranoia and over-zealous attempt to protect their people from the gay-bashing crazies that they fear populate the Valley. The truth is that they are newbies and have the right to make a few innocent mistakes. The trouble is that they don’t have time to make very many mistakes, innocent or not. Opening a new nightclub, gay or straight, is a brutally unforgiving and risky undertaking.

I believe that while they don’t need the intolerant, they cannot afford to not welcome everyone that is tolerant. Frisking everyone who walks in the door will neither deter a terrible hate crime nor welcome the tolerant non-gay crowd which I believe Holly Rock must have to succeed in the Spokane Valley.  The Valley, compared to downtown is the hinterlands as far as the gay nightclub scene is concerned, not because of backward thinking but because of demographics.

I think Holly Rock’s only chance is to welcome everyone that is either practicing an alternative lifestyle or tolerant of those who are. The gay community alone  is not enough to support them, but even if it were why would you want to discourage more business? There are actually a lot of free-thinking people in the Valley, like everywhere in America, who may not live an alternate lifestyle but they might enjoy having the alternative to go there once in a while for a drink or a dance. The Holly Rock needs them to survive and they need to welcome them, not pat them down.

 Read an earlier blog on Holly Rock

  1. Robin Tuttle says:

    This is Robin Tuttle, the owner of Hollyrock. I do understand your dislike of the pocket checks and such, but what we have found so far has validated the action by the results. This bar is ment to be a safe place for all, and soon for the the under 21 crowd as well until 9 PM at night. How can I ask parents to trust our bar as a safe place when anyone can bring in a knife, razor blade or drugs into the facility? I do hope to be able to relax these security checks in the future, BUT safety of the staff and guests come first.

    I opened this bar to give the alternate crowds a safe place to come… Unlike other business I do not plan on this bar making profit. All profits after cost will be returned to the charities that need it the most.

    Thank you for coming in and looking us over! Robin

    • Your welcome Robin. Good luck with everything and I have to say you have picked a great industry for a non-profit considering how most night clubs are just that.
      Another thought on frisking or pocket searches which is really all that it was. I asked your door man that night if he had discovered any weapons on anyone and he said he had found several pocket knives. He inferred that was proof that the searches were necessary but I would say that you would find the same in the customers at Applebee’s lounge or McDonald’s. It would probably scare any bar owner or restaurant owner to frisk their clientele.
      On the topic of allowing underaged:it sounds like a well-meaning, yet destined-too-fail idea to me. Night clubs are hard enough to make profitable with patrons drinking highly cost-effective alchohol. Having operated one, I know you are already starting to realize that is true. I hate to be pesimisstic and I hope that I am wrong, but if you are hoping the profits from the nightclub will support the under-aged thing, then I am afraid you are in for a shock. You will be so lucky if you ever make a profit.
      I gave you or your partner my card one day last summer in the Rock Inn’s parking lot and said to call because I had done this all before. If anyone had called, my strongest advice would have been don’t even think about it. The only way we eventually made a decent living at it was by working an insane amount of hours.
      Lastly about the underaged part. I gather you think the underaged that are into the alternate lifestyles need a place to feel safe, be themselves and enjoy the company of like-minded kids. That I agree with. But your place is an adult bar which means it has alchohol and potential older preditors (just like every bar). All the searching in the world cannot keep out the sad and evil things that humans do to one another.
      I think you are well-intentioned and I hope you have success, I would just advise you look your books and the amount of money that has come in the till and out the door. I am guessing you are already seeing this is going to be a bumpy ride. Your success depends on making adjustments to the new data and often discarding ideas we were sure would be well recieved but weren’t. At any rate, I could go on all day. If you want to hear more, you have my card.

  2. Daniel says:

    Hello I am Daniel.
    I live here in Spokane, and go to Irv’s and used to go to Dempsey’s. I think that having an underage crowd before 9pm is a great thing. There are not many positive safe environments where teens can hang out. Being a gay teen is extremely hard and confusing, and the positive staff and other patrons will do great at giving them a place where they can feel good about themselves. That being said, frisking the customers may not prevent serious hate crimes.. but it will give off the message to everyone that the club does care and pay attention to safety and that violence or hate will not be tolerated. Parents will also feel better if trusting their kids to be in a place like that, knowing that they at least care. I have heard a lot of things from friends about this place and look forward to checking it out. I believe even if it is a bumpy ride financially that it is still worth it. It isn’t about money anyways. Whether there is a chance of Holly Rock surviving long term or not, it is no ones place to worry about besides the owner. This is a great step for the Valley and Spokane area in general. I am sure I am not the only one that would be willing to donate to a place like this to help keep it going if there was any trouble. This club is for the community, not someones pocket.

    Keep it up, Robin. I look forward to checking the place out, and am hoping you receive only positive feedback and progress.

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