One thing is certain about the large, empty building at 704 Main St. in Vancouver’s Esther Short neighborhood: It will not house another nightclub — or even a restaurant, for that matter, according to the man overseeing its lease.
“(The owner) has no intention to even show it to anybody along that line again,” said commercial real estate agent Mike Walling of City Commercial Group. “No nightclubs or restaurants.”
Multiple nightclubs have leased the 9,600-square-foot building over the years, ranging from the most recent Q Nightclub and Lounge to El Parral Mexican Restaurant and Nightclub, Studio 704 and El Mestizzo. The building has sat vacant for the past year while owners look for a new tenant to make it, most likely, an office.
It would be a welcome change for neighbors who say the nightlife brought a lot of people to the area and trouble.
“It just wasn’t a good crowd,” said Alexis Powers, a former employee of another downtown bar who now works across the street from the former Q Nightclub. “There were how many shootings in the time they were there?”
Q Nightclub and Lounge operated out of that space for about four years, according to owner Adrian Kallimanis. Between March 2014 and January 2015, the area around the nightclub was the scene of two shootings and a brawl that left a person with brain injuries, according to Columbian archives.
The club was ultimately shut down in December 2015 amid fire safety concerns. An exit the club had been using for fire and garbage access was found to belong to the neighboring property — a discovery that was made after transit agency C-Tran, who purchased the property in 1983, started to build its bus terminus, Turtle Place.
Kallimanis and business partner Jose Parra last month filed a lawsuit against the city of Vancouver and C-Tran, among others, alleging they conspired against the club because it appealed largely to black and Hispanic people. Both entities refute the claim. The suit is ongoing in U.S. District Court.
Kallimanis said he hoped to recoup losses he accrued by investing in the property before it was shut down.
“I’m just really disappointed about not being compensated for the business. I thought there were laws that protects people from these type of situations,” he said. “So they tried to blame things that happened outside of the business on us. We are very confused. I didn’t know it was my job to do the policing outside of the business.”
‘Something good is bound to happen’
Even before Q Nightclub came on the scene, though, there were run-ins with the law. In 1995, the building was called The Club, a hangout for teens, and in March of that year a 17-year-old boy shot and injured an 18-year-old woman, according to Columbian archives.
As the Latin nightclub El Mestizzo in 2000, two men were shot after a bar fight spilled out into the streets. At the same bar three years later, two men were sent to the hospital with stab wounds. In 2011, the managers of El Parral Mexican Restaurant and Nightclub were implicated in a drug raid that led to the seizure of 16 pounds of methamphetamine, according to Columbian archives.
Still, Jeff Lanford, manager of nearby Lucky Loan Pawn Shop, said he remembered Q Nightclub as “the worst of the bunch,” whose crowds would sometimes break windows, leading security companies to call him in the middle of the night.
“I was always concerned that their customers would get into a brawl, and they’d break a window,” he said.
But headaches for neighboring businesses haven’t stopped even while the building sits empty. They say the homeless have taken to camping out in front of the building and scare customers.
“Customers don’t want to walk past a group of 12 people and their dogs,” sitting on the sidewalk, Powers s aid. “It totally is a damper on our businesses.”
Main Street Partners, an ownership group led by Wayne Magnoni, owns the building. In an email, Magnoni contends that incidents over the course of 20 years didn’t necessarily make the property any more problematic than other bars or restaurants.
Ultimately, he said, “something good is bound to happen.”
“Our current hope is that 704 Main is no longer part of a neglected section of the downtown,” he wrote. “We think that many businesses needing space should consider the future at this location.”
According to Walling, they hope to secure a longer lease at the building. Signing a tenant could be six months away, and he said there are two candidates who have shown interest in turning the building into offices.
The search is being aided by the Columbia River Economic Development Council, the private-public agency tasked with recruiting businesses and helping to expand ones already here. The agency declined to comment, however, as it is an ongoing project.
Mara Fox, owner of Love Potion Magickal Perfumerie, which is across the street, said she hoped the city would be more inclined to find retail for the downtown area so as to bring more shoppers.
As it stands, the space would likely cost about $9,600 a month — $1 per square foot — and Walling said they would negotiate with would-be tenants about the costs to give the building a face-lift. The owners hope to renovate the interior, tear off the facade to reveal brick underneath and, overall, help it fit the aesthetic of a historic downtown building.
Walling said the owners hope to do “every little thing we can do (in order) to be looked at as one of the most beautiful Main Streets,” he said.
Despite its history, Walling said he doesn’t think it will be any trouble finding a tenant.
“I’m more interested on just working on the property, like any other property. It is an interesting animal because it has all these other parameters that everybody keeps thinking about, whether it’s the owners or somebody else,” he said.