Columbia City Theater is hidden on the main strip of Columbia City. It’s squeezed right between a pizza parlor and café and easy to miss during your first visit. Once you make your way inside, you’re inserted into a dark bar with warm memories trapped in the buildings restored wood paneling. Much of the original brickwork is still visible and feels like it belongs to the speakeasies of another time.
The theater’s long history is also murky with grandiose lore about famed performers like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Ray Charles. The South Seattle Emerald couldn’t find any historical records of the theater being used as a jazz venue when those musicians were active around the 1930s. That hasn’t stopped rumors from permeating through the venue’s online record. While its history is a bit murky, the theater’s renown acoustics are not in question. Acoustics worthy of the legends that may or may not have graced the stage.
The theater’s lore adds a layer of mystery, ushering performers and fans inside to find out the secrets of the space for themselves. Walking through the door in the back reveals a hidden bar with grandiose ceilings. This is where the stage resides, lording over the rest of the room like a benevolent musical ruler.
Lara Lavi, former manager of the Columbia City Theater; was a dedicated general manager who helped foster a blossoming musical community in Columbia City through reviving the theater’s steeze. Burlesque, comedy, rock, hip-hop and any other genre or performance art are welcome on the theater’s stage.
This place has gone through many changes since it was built in the 1900s, but Columbia City is a place where artists express themselves and propel their star into new heights. Comedy superstars like Moshe Kasher have performed there, and local talents showcase their stuff every week. Open-micers and veteran performers alike can appreciate the venue’s intimate setting.
Nick Weaver and New Track City performed in the theater last Nov. to a sold-out crowd. The combination of bar and pit allow concert goers to better choose their desired experience. Get loose on the dance floor or vibe out with a cocktail in your hand, the theater’s versatility makes it special.
The final night of the Seattle World Tour takes place within the inviting walls of the Columbia City Theater. The lineup features All Star Opera, La Fonda, Ralphy Davis, and Whitney Mongé.