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Legendary Seattle rock club The Crocodile is moving, with big plans during a pandemic

Seattle DJ Marco Collins (second from left) with Kurt Cobain and friends in the heart of the grunge era. (Photo courtesy of Marco Collins)

When The Crocodile opened in Seattle in 1991, The Posies and Love Battery were the first bands to play. Since then, the small Belltown venue has become internationally famous, hosting bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam in the early ’90s, when they were just starting out.

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“The Beastie Boys played there. Billie Eilish played there not too long ago. I saw REM play there, they were massive at that time!,” said legendary Seattle DJ Marco Collins.

Collins, currently a DJ at KEXP, was the first in the world to play bands like Nirvana, Weezer, and Beck back when he was a DJ on Seattle’s 107.7 The End in the heart of the grunge era.

“I moved here in 1991, the same year that The Crocodile started here in Seattle,” he said. “It quickly became a place that was important for up and coming bands to play. It was one of the only venues that would support independent rock.”

But this week, The Crocodile announced that it’s moving. The building’s owner refused to renew the lease or sell the building to the club’s owners. But to be clear, The Crocodile isn’t closing. It’s only moving a few blocks away, and the owners have big plans. That’s a completely different narrative than we’ve gotten used to hearing during the pandemic, when all venues have been shuttered with no end in sight.

“Finally, some good news,” Collins said.

The Croc is moving into the old El Gaucho building, which, according to The Seattle Times, has a solid rock and roll history. Before the steakhouse opened in 1996, bands like Radiohead, Korn, and Bikini Kill played at what was called the Sailors Union of the Pacific Hall. There’s also an 18-room hotel upstairs.

“I’m excited,” Collins said. “I think it’s fantastic. Being that they’re going to have three potential stages: a comedy stage, a larger venue, which can hold 100 more people than they already could, and then a smaller stage like a Barboza. I think it’s amazing. And then the hotel? I think it’s really good news, and the fact that it’s still in Belltown kind of holds on to that original essence. They’ll be able to get bigger bands to play in that venue, and then they can stay upstairs. I don’t know why I’m so excited about the hotel part! Maybe they’ll even stream the show into your hotel room so as old people we don’t really ever have to leave the hotel room.”

According to The Seattle Times, the plan is to open the hotel in February, the bar in March, and the owners are hopeful live music and comedy will return by September 2021. The club’s investor group includes Alice in Chains drummer Sean Kinney, and Susan Silver, former manager of Alice and Chains and Soundgarden.

Hopefully, the new venue will be home to many more years of young musicians just getting their start.

“When we started playing Beck at The End [in 1993], he had barely signed his deal with Geffen [Records] and because the record ‘Loser’ got so big in Seattle, we decided to fly Beck up to do a couple shows,” said Collins, reminiscing about the old space. “I booked the 21-and-up show at The Crocodile. Now, keep in mind, at that time Beck was nothing more than a busker. He was an acoustic artist that just added some beats. But I remember watching the show and being mortified for him. He had a little toy drum machine and the drum machine broke, his little toy broke. So he had to do ‘Loser’ acoustic and he ended up getting booed at The Crocodile, pretty much getting booed off the stage.”

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