Just as every criminal was born innocent, every dive bar was born just a bar. True dive status comes only with the acquisition of age and use and abuse. That said, one can start off on the right foot, and in its no-frills warmth and early track record for eager debauchery, the Clock-Out Lounge is well on its way.
During its soft opening on March 9, the Clock-Out hosted a contingent of Seattleites of a certain age seeking the atmosphere of a certain era—or perhaps more accurately, a certain way of being—that has otherwise sunsetted in the city. Selfies and scenesterism weren’t entirely absent, but the party tilted more toward earnest, in-the-moment camaraderie than overeager, location-tagging firsties. With its dim lighting (nice but not too expensive), dark wood paneling (rustic but not precious) and basement rec-room décor (quaint but not twee), the Clock-Out felt just put-together enough to be seen in public.
Revelers seemed to recognize their role in filling in the blank canvas, stacking plastic promotional shot glasses on tabletops and generally carrying on like the world is not on fire. Friendly bartenders poured an unpretentious selection of local beers. The far end of the space was frocked with gold curtains, framing a stage that had yet to be built. Instead DJs plied turntables set on the floor, exactly where dancers could collide with them again and again, sending needles skittering across vinyl.
“Art-punk-cabin was our motivating design theme,” says Denise Burnside, who co-owns the Clock-Out with her longtime friend Jodi Ecklund. “I did the actual designing, choosing the materials and placing them, but I did it by asking a lot of questions and listening to Jodi and others with inspired ideas.”
Burnside and Ecklund have long, involved track records in Seattle music and nightlife: Burnside as former general manager of the Showbox and COO and CFO of KEXP; Ecklund as booker of Chop Suey. Both have played in bands for years and play together in their current project, Pink Parts. The Clock-Out will host bands—mostly local—on weekends, as well as drag and cabaret performances and, on Mondays, GGNZLA Karaoke. With the tables moved for live music, the place has roughly the same capacity as Sunset Tavern in Ballard.
“We don’t believe the Clock-Out will ‘change the landscape,’ for live music in the city, Burnside says, “but it will create a space for local bands. We suspect rising rents don’t allow venues to take the risks they used to. The Clock-Out will have the ability to curate our offerings rather than try to fill every night. Jodi will get to follow her vision as the talent buyer, on her terms.”
Beacon Hill was always the target neighborhood, says Ecklund. This particular stretch of Beacon Ave. S, part of a retail strip that includes a golfing store, a plant nursery and a Chinese grocery, is otherwise a nightlife desert. With its pocket parking lots in the center median, it’s more car-focused and less walkable than further north, where most recent development has occurred. Given the city’s shifting demographics, specifically the southward migration of erstwhile Ballard and Capitol Hill residents, the pair’s low-key, high-vibe gamble should pay off.
A family-friendly (before 9 p.m.) watering hole that hosts DJs and live local bands on weekends: If that formula isn’t enough of a lure, consider Breezy Town Pizza, the Clock-Out’s bonus feature. The full-time pop-up is overseen by David Lichterman, whose Windy City Pie launched in 2016 in Interbay, offers the best deep-dish west of the Sears Tower.