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Hell’s Kitchen makes its valiant return to Tacoma, set on rocking the shit out of downtown

Hell's Kitchen reopens on New Year's Eve in downtown Tacoma.

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We’ve survived the wait, Tacoma.

And, perhaps more impressive, here at the Weekly Volcano we’ve been able to fill the holes in our music section in the interim.

Hell’s Kitchen — Tacoma’s quintessential rock club — is coming back, set to return with a free, New Year’s Eve show with Jet City Fix, Atomic Outlaws, Mom’s Rocket and Wide Eye Panic. In case you’ve been living in a holiday gingerbread haze, or out of the country on a covert operation to Cabo designed to assassinate your liver, the new Hell’s Kitchen, after more than a month of prep-work and anticipation, will swing open its doors 8 p.m. New Year’s Eve, at 928 Pacific Ave. Forced to look for a new location to avoid the law mandated installation of a $60,000 sprinkler system at the old location, the new Hell’s Kitchen (which already had a sprinkler system in place) is not only an upgrade, but also a way to keep what’s quickly become a Tacoma institution running strong. Hell’s Kitchen first rocked T-town in 2002, and thanks to its new downtown location, that streak doesn’t seem likely to end anytime soon.

Tacoma’s rock scene couldn’t be happier. Hell’s Kitchen booking agent Flash couldn’t be more excited. And downtown Tacoma may never be the same.

During a recent tour of the new digs, the man in charge told me the Kitchen’s plans are simple — take downtown by storm and never look back.

“I’m excited about downtown because of the close proximity to other bars and the potential for a downtown nightlife scene,” says Flash, pointing to the place on the sidewalk, outside the new Hell’s Kitchen, where the sandwich board will eventually go drawing in the after work happy hour crowd. 

“The Ninth and Pacific area is the future of entertainment in Tacoma, for sure,” he tells me. Looking down the street at the Matador, Paddy Coyne’s, Merende etc. — it’s hard not to believe him, even if the new Hell’s Kitchen will be — far and away — the most tattooed and hairy watering hole on the block.

While the rock club reputation — rightfully earned — isn’t one Flash and Hell’s Kitchen is trying to shake, the new Hell’s Kitchen does have plans to attract a downtown crowd that — for the most part — isn’t the type of bunch you find slumped over on cheap beer after an I Defy show. Of course, Hell’s Kitchen will always cater to the slumped over I Defy crowd (for lack of a better categorization), but the club also hopes to attract new ears and wallets by proving you don’t need to be covered with ink or limited by a restraining order to enjoy a stiff drink or a night of full-throttle rock at the Kitchen.

Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of that plan is one only half of Hell’s Kitchen’s clientele will ever see — the women’s bathroom. Though it may seem like a small thing, the women’s bathroom inside the new Hell’s Kitchen is amazingly nice — and seriously clean. We’re talking flowers, Pergo floors — the whole deal, folks. For anyone who ever avoided the old Hell’s Kitchen because their wife or girlfriend refused to use the facilities, the new women’s bathroom at the new Hell’s Kitchen is something of a godsend — and one of the small things that just may make the difference in the Kitchen’s attempts to draw in the downtown crowd.

“When you have a clean women’s restroom, the ladies will want to be there,” says Flash. “And it has been proven that if there are ladies at your bar, the guys will be there too.”

Logic like that can’t be argued with.

In addition to a sparkling new women’s bathroom, the new Hell’s Kitchen will have plenty of other new perks and qualities, For one, the occupancy will increase by at least one hundred people.

“The new occupancy is 422, the old was 299,” explains Flash.  “It’s not a huge difference, but it does allow us to pursue at least a little bit bigger acts.”

Also, a new lunch menu is in the works to eventually provide downtown’s lunch-goers with a cheaper option than they currently enjoy — visualize $7 burgers and salads. With much more seating than the old location, including a diner style counter where people can watch the Kitchen’s kitchen in action — think 13 Coins — it’s clear the new Hell’s Kitchen is being designed to appeal to a much wider demographic than before — a wise business move, that can only signal good things for Tacoma and our music scene.

Oh, and Flash says to expect Hell’s Kitchen pinball tournaments to be coming soon. He fancies himself a pretty solid pinball player, so he advises those interested in competing to practice up — preferably at the new Hell’s Kitchen location, which will be stocked with machines.

In all, it’s all part of the Hell’s Kitchen master plan — to rock the shit out of downtown and never look back.

It all starts New Year’s Eve. See you there, Tacoma.

[Hell’s Kitchen, Grand Reopening Party, with Jet City Fix, Atomic Outlaws, Wide Eye Panic, Mom’s Rocket, Thursday, Dec. 31, 8 p.m., no cover, 928 Pacific Ave., Tacoma,]

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