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A new chapter

Hell's Kitchen says goodbye to Sixth Avenue and looks forward to rocking downtown

99 BOTTLES OF BOOZE ON THE WALL: The new Hell’s Kitchen on Pacific Avenue will have many of the same amenities â€" including booze. File photo

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Things change. They always do.

Soon, the corner of Sixth and Proctor in Tacoma will be a little quieter. Sure, drunk frat types in backward hats will still stumble out of the West End, and broke single moms will still cart their kids’ dirty clothes to the laundromat, but the rock will be gone — the metal no more, the goatee a fading memory. ...

That, of course, is an overly dramatic way of pointing out Hell’s Kitchen — which has stood at Sixth and Proctor like a pillar of Pabst stains, punk rock and Tacoma live local music viability since 2002 — is moving, to downtown Tacoma of all places. This weekend, after three shows with the semi world famous all-female AC/DC tribute band Hell’s Belles, Hell’s Kitchen will shut it down for good on Sixth Avenue, focusing on a new location at 928 Pacific Ave. that should be up and running by mid-December.

For those who don’t know the story by now, the gist is simple: Faced with stricter sprinkler laws that go into effect Dec. 1 and would have forced Hell’s Kitchen, in its current location, to fork over close to $60,000 to comply, and realizing — after months of fundraising — that coming up with the cash in this economy was going to be downright impossible, Hell’s Kitchen head man and booking agent Flash made the only call he could — to look for a new home. Luckily, 928 Pacific Ave. — former home to Stephanie’s Gospel and Jazz and La Costa Mexican Restaurant — was available, and more importantly already had a compliant sprinkler system in place.

Like finding water and oxygen on a far off planet after we run the earth into the ground with SUVs and aerosol hair spray, suddenly a potentially crushing story had a happy ending — and Hell’s Kitchen had new life.

The new sprinkler laws wouldn’t doom Hell’s Kitchen, as was once feared — Tacoma’s quintessential rock club would simply have to relocate. Considering the options, the development can be seen as nothing but a godsend for Tacoma music.

“The decision to move is always a difficult one, but our hand was forced by the new law requiring an automatic sprinkler system for nightclubs. It was definitely going to be cheaper to move to a space that already has sprinklers than to install sprinklers in a building we don’t own,” says Flash. “We will miss Sixth Ave. for sure. The location created many great memories for us and our patrons.”

Like any change in life, the new Hell’s Kitchen location will have repercussions for Tacoma — both positive and negative. Of course, it can be seen as nothing but a good thing that Hell’s Kitchen will trudge on, but the all-ages shows Hell’s Kitchen has hosted in the past will become exactly that — a thing of the past. Once the Pacific Avenue location opens its doors, the Kitchen’s all-age fans will need to find a new place to rock — a change in direction for the club not lost on Flash, and something he no doubt feels bad about. Still, based on the surge of all ages activity all around Tacoma — from The Den to beyond — something tells me the kids will be all right.

And Flash has plenty to look forward to on Pacific Avenue.

“At the new location we’re looking forward to the fact that there is the potential to be a part of a bigger nightlife and music picture. We always wanted to be in closer proximity to other bars and venues. We hope the Firwood opens up down there soon, too. We’ll compliment each other well,” says Flash.

“At the new Hell’s Kitchen expect to see bigger shows and events. Now that our capacity will be over 400 it will allow us to pursue a little bigger stuff. We’re expecting to be open at the new location mid-to-late December. Most likely New Year’s Eve will be our official Grand Re-Opening Party.”

Flash also says Hell’s Kitchen patrons can expect said New Year’s Eve show to be free and feature some of the area’s best local bands. That, along with planned gigs with Guttermouth and Rorschach Test in January, should be enough to bring in the New Year — and the new Hell’s Kitchen — in a big, fitting, rock and roll fashion.

“We are looking forward to continuing to be Tacoma’s premier live music venue for many years to come,” says Flash.

I have no reason to doubt him.

[Hell’s Kitchen, final shows at Sixth Ave. location featuring Hell’s Belles: with The Jet City Fix, Witchburn, Friday, Nov. 27, 9 p.m., $12; with Riot in Rhythm, Saturday, Nov. 28, 5 p.m., all ages, $12; with Cookie, Saturday, Nov. 28, 9 p.m., $12, 3829 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.759.6003]

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