Staff Reports | SEATTLE -- Police and fire investigators confirmed Thursday that a New Year Eve's fire at a popular Seattle gay nightclub was most likely arson related. According to a Seattle police spokesperson, an unknown person or persons poured gasoline onto a carpeted stairwell between the two levels at Neighbours, in the city's Capital Hill neighborhood just after midnight Tuesday and then set it on fire. The club bills itself as the city's oldest gay night club.
“This could potentially have been much worse,” said Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore. “You have an establishment full of patrons and an intentionally set fire. That’s a very dangerous situation.” Moore said that at the time of the incident the bar was near capacity with about 750 patrons celebrating the New Year. Moore noted that the flames were immediately noticed and credited the actions by a quick thinking patron who grabbed a fire extinguisher from behind the upper level's bar and put out the flames. The club's own sprinkler system was also activated and another person quickly pulled the fire alarm which led to a rapid evacuation of the bar.
Seattle police and fire investigators are exploring the possibility that the arson fire may be the result of a hate bias.
“If there’s any indication it’s a hate crime, we’ll pass it on to our bias unit,” said police spokeswoman Renee Witt. She said the arson and bomb squads are investigating.
An empty gasoline can was found at the top of the stairway, which leads to the bar’s mezzanine overlooking the dance floor.
A club employee, Kevin Parcasio, told the Seattle Times that although the club got its start 30 years ago as a gay bar, it is now host to a diverse clientele and often has more straight customers than gay. He said there was no indication why someone would start a fire there.
Because of the water damage, he said he didn't know when Neighbours would reopen.