Details: Concerns over Club Evo site reopening aired before North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our previous reports on the meeting are here – as-it-happened notes – and here (unedited video of the meeting). This is a closer look at the most contentious item of the night, and where it stands since then.

By Deanie Schwarz
Reporting for White Center Now

The owner of the downtown White Center space formerly known as Club Evo(lucion), Alfredo Lopez, appeared with new business partner Daniel Yarbrough at the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (NHUAC) Thursday night before a standing-room-only crowd.

Invited to participate in a discussion regarding their proposed plans to reopen the club as an 18-years-old-and-under “banda” (Mexican country music) dance club, the two addressed council members’ and nearby neighboring business owners’ comments about their past experiences with Lopez as a nightclub owner and more than a few negative expectations for any future business there, which the partners say could include a remodel of the building into a restaurant/lounge (as first reported here).

The proposed business plans of the partners for the Lopez-owned property at 9625 16th SW are contingent on successfully meeting the compliance parameters required to allow the May 17 King County Superior Court permanent injunction to be potentially be lifted by the Court at a later date.

Having introduced himself to those who had not met him since he took ownership of the building in 2000, Lopez began by saying his original intent was to provide Latino teenagers a place to dance because at the time he opened the all-ages club, Club Evolucion was the only such club in Western Washington. Lopez explained that other Latino all-age venues have opened in the years since which serve the areas closer to where those minor-aged Latinos live and he thinks they will no longer drive that far to patronize his club. He said up until three years ago when he moved to southern California, he lived in Des Moines and before that resided in Burien and White Center. He asserted he was a member of the community because of that history.

Permits, Parking and Public Safety

According to Jim Chen and Chris Ricketts, both with King County Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES), the King County Superior Court injunction is on the building itself and cannot be removed until compliance is satisfied, regardless of any future DDES permit applicants’ names. Chen also told WCN the injunction restrictions hold even if a change of ownership of the property were to happen. When someone at the meeting pointed out that he believed Lopez has current warrants with the state of Washington for back taxes owed, Chen told him that DDES applications can be pursued, but if applicants have outstanding back taxes, permits would not be issued.

The matter of a lack of onsite parking for the club (with a potential occupancy range of 250 to 500) was another concern of a wide number of community businesses. Lopez said that in the past he had “informal arrangements” with Schuck’s Auto Supply on 17th and Roxbury, which is now owned by O’Reilly’s Automotive. But his first reaction was to say that he wasn’t going to worry about parking until all compliance issues were addressed. He said his patrons were a late-night crowd anyway and typically wouldn’t show up at the club until after 10:00 PM. Also, he said he was not concerned about a shortage of available parking because most other businesses would be closed by then.

However, the point was made a number of times that many complaints from the former club’s operations originated from property damage and desecration, littering, loitering, and violence — including fights, stabbings and gunshots– public intoxication of minors and overall concern for the public safety of clubs patrons and patrons of neighboring businesses owing to the walking distance between non-contracted properties’ parking lots and the club. Chen and Ricketts told WCN that applicants for a Tenant Improvement Permit might need to provide, among many other parameters, signed contracts for offsite parking for discretionary review by the Director. The number of parking spaces required is determined by the square footage and usage, they confirmed.

Yarbrough outlined a few details of their security plan. He says they have received rate sheets from the Sheriffs’ Guild, which handles hourly rates and varying level of services by off-duty KCSO officers who might be hired for security. Council member Mosely noted previous community concerns regarding a conflict of interests by off-duty sheriffs working at the club. Capt. Joseph Hodgson of KCSO interjected that though the Guild handles initial arrangements for off-duty officers, the KCSO has the final determination of whether such arrangements will be approved. Hodgson mentioned, for example, that if alcohol were going to be served at a contracted location, then KCSO has the authority and discretion to decline off-duty work by their sheriffs.

Neighborhood activist Gill Loring asserted that contrary to the owner’s comments that KCSO deputies were trimmed down and then eventually discontinued last year as a budgetary matter, the King County Permit at a Glance website showed that the KCSO stopped off-duty coverage because it was “not a legal business and was operating in a substandard building.” The King County DDES Permit At a Glance site for Permit Enforcement E1000445 states the County’s determination: OPERATION OF A BUSINESS IN A SUBSTANDARD BUILDING WITH MULTIPLE FIRE CODE VIOLATIONS AND OPERATION OF A BUSINESS WITHOUT A KING COUNTY BUSINESS LICENSE.

And to that, Lopez conceded that perhaps it actually was more of a concurrent decision by both himself and KCSO.

Lopez said he made a mistake last year when he changed the format of his club to include a Friday night event with a hip-hop promoter, which he says is where all the trouble started, though there was much disagreement with his assessment of where and what the trouble was and when it began. He realized, he said, that trying to run the club from out of state became more difficult. His new partnership with experienced club owner and developer/manager Yarbrough — who will act as operating manager — will alleviate the previous problems, he said. He told the crowd that that hip-hop promoter had lied to him last fall when the Sheriff’s officers confiscated alcohol inside the club and he had no control over it because he was out of state. He went on to say to the crowd that his “family’s safety is his number one concern” because he, his wife, his 25-year old son and 19-year old daughter will be working there. However, Lopez did not say he was changing residency to White Center or the state of Washington, though he did say he is licensed to practice law in Washington and the state shows his law office is located in White Center.

The issue of alleged gang-related activity associated with the previous club operations was a point of concern to many in attendance. Lopez and Yarbrough said that because the dance club will no longer cater to minors, the number of gang-associated juveniles will decrease because gangs are predominantly, though not exclusively, under the age of 18. Yarbrough reiterated the police-agency training and certification requirements of any security personnel who will work at the club.

Neighboring tavern and bar owners said they had seen plenty of traffic away from and toward the bar on 16th Ave. with fights the off-duty officers standing by did not control, numerous observations of 18-year olds consuming alcohol in cars illegally parked in neighboring parking lots, litter and the overall creation of a gauntlet of public safety insecurities to be negotiated by other 16th Ave. business customers.

WCN attempted to contact Lopez and Yarbrough for an interview after the meeting to determine if they had any new insight into their plans based on the discussions, but calls have not been returned. Also, we sought comment from the White Center Community Development Association and the White Center Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber was the only agency to respond immediately and its official statement follows in its entirety.

“Creating a safe, welcoming, family-oriented venue for the Latino community to come dance their hearts out in White Center is a wonderful business model. We love it, we endorse it and we would welcome it to White Center. But past actions are a predictor of future actions. Mr. Alfredo Lopez is an absentee landlord whose previous business management style and operation of Club Evo, in our view, drastically increased the threat of violent crime on that block when his business was operating.

The two most common complaints we hear from White Center business owners are 1.) The increasing public drunkenness on our streets; and 2.) The aggressive, marginally monitored crowd attracted by Club Evo on Saturday nights.

Until the Chamber sees a management and public safety plan from Mr. Lopez that is approved by the majority of businesses in the core White Center business district on both sides of 16th SW, and is fully funded by Mr. Lopez, our Chamber would take the highly unusual action of not supporting a new business in White Center.

Mark Ufkes, President
White Center Chamber of Commerce

The WCCDA informed WCN that the matter is being discussed amongst WCCDA leadership and WCN will be notified when an official statement is available.

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6 Responses to “Details: Concerns over Club Evo site reopening aired before North Highline Unincorporated Area Council”

  1. Thank you Gill, WCCDA, and WCN. Hopefully your work will prevent this club from reopening.

  2. Adam, please note that the meeting that is referenced on this blog concerning Club E was sponsored by the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (NHUAC), which is a council comprised of elected resident volunteers.

    NHUAC meetings are held on the 1st Thursday of the month at 7pm at the North Highline Fire Station, 1243 12th Ave, SW. All are welcome. Please see our website for contact information.

  3. Adam, did you read the statement just above the comments section: “The WCCDA informed WCN that the matter is being discussed amongst WCCDA leadership and WCN will be notified when an official statement is available.” Which translates into they have not taken a position on the reopening of Club Evo. It should be pointed out that the WCCDA did open their conference room several years ago where a number of us met with Mr. Lopez about Club Evo. Since then I am not aware of any further involvement by the WCCDA concerning Club Evo. It should be noted that the meeting reported on by Deanie Schwarz was held at the North Highline Fire Dept. station under the auspices of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council.

  4. Deanie Schwarz Says:


    it was noted in the article in the first and second paragraphs.

    I also should mention that I received a note from the White Center Community Revitalization point person, Nhan Nguyen, to whom my inquiry was made, after this was published. He is out of the office through July 14.

  5. It is funny that the area bars are cocerned about the trouble that came from this club. That sounds like the pot calling the kettle black. All the bars on the west side of 16th av should have to show what there security is about. Oh and by the way, will this place let non latinos in? Oh right this place will be filled with the areas finst young men and women nothing but roll models to our comunity. It’s all about the money.

  6. Thanks Gil for giving credit where credit is due.