The site of a Seattle-area strip club, formerly known as Sugar’s Nightclub, is getting a little saving grace today. At one time, a haven for prostitution, the building was also used as a front in a racketeering scheme, operated by Seattle crime family, the Colacurcio’s. Now, five years after the indictment of its former owners, the building that used to be known as Sugar’s strip club, once again becomes alive. Pastor Scott Sund, and members of the Bethany Community Church, signed a five-year lease on the building last month, planning to reopen it early this fall, as a church-run community center.
According to Pastor Sund, the building’s owner turned down several other lease offers from people who wanted to use the building as a strip club, in the same fashion as Sugar’s. Church volunteers entered the space on the day before Easter Sunday, stopping for a moment to pray for the building’s past, present, and future. They have already started to convert the space, pulling out the smoke-stained red carpet, and removing the mirrors from the walls. “The story is a tragic one to us,” Sund says, of the building and its memories. “It was in really bad shape.” Sund says the Bethany Community Church now hopes to fill the building with prayers, songs, and joy.
In 2010, the government seized all the Colacurcio family and associates’ properties, including Sugar’s. In 2011, a Seattle-area family bought the building from an auction, but it has remained untouched for several years. Four associates, along with Colacurcio Junior and Senior, were indicted, in 2009, for using the locations of their four Washington state clubs as a front for money laundering and prostitution. They were also said to be the biggest organized crime institution on the west coast, independent of any east coast mafia, having influences in political and police corruption, and operating in five other states, as well as Canada.
Bethany Community Church has had its own fair share of troubles. In March, the main sanctuary of the church was hit by lighting, strong enough to blow the entire roof off. The church’s plan is to create a 100-seat worship center, complete with multipurpose rooms, changing the former haven for prostitution, into a haven for worship and spiritual renewal, and a place of hope for the North Aurora community. Pastor Sund said the church’s director of programs for children was actually the one to suggest the building in the first place, originally causing a surge of laughter through church staff. However, after prayerful consideration, they knew, “this was the place.”
Members and staff of the church continue to pray for safe, but dramatic changes to the building, the area and the church as a whole. The expansion of its outreach ministry, to the areas of North Seattle and Shoreline, is of the utmost importance. The church sees symbolism in the former Seattle strip club site getting saved, hoping that the community around it will become saved, as well. “We are taking out the old, and bringing new light into the community,” says Sund. As for the building, itself, it will need quite a bit of TLC, to get it to a church-ready point, but volunteers are ready and willing. By the coming fall, North Seattle will see a new space take over, where the old Sugar’s Nightclub used to hail, proving that in the world of Bethany Community Church, where God is concerned, even a building can be reborn.
By Melissa A. White-Jantzen