Mecca Theater

755 Broadway,
Tacoma, WA 98402

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This former adult theater closed in Summer 2006 and was scheduled for demolition. However it was converted into condominium housing.

Contributed by Lost Memory

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Lost Memory
Lost Memory on February 12, 2007 at 10:34 pm

Article about the closing:

“Mecca’s sale will close tawdry chapter in Tacoma’s history

DAN VOELPEL; THE NEWS TRIBUNE
April 21st, 2006

If you want to catch the end of downtown Tacoma’s long history as a pornography supermarket,

Jerry Holt has two words for you.

“Better hurry.”

Holt plans to close his Mecca Theater â€" downtown’s last adult movie house, pornographic bookstore

and sex merchandise shop â€" before the end of July.

A victim of the Internet? Moralist intervention? Law enforcement investigation? New government

zoning regulations?

No, no, no, no. Holt survived all those attacks in his 30 years in Tacoma.

Then why?

“I’m getting up in age,” Holt said this week. The tinge in his voice sounded like a cross between

wistfulness, resignation and humor.

But age isn’t the whole story behind Holt’s decision.

Eighteen months ago, Holt wanted to relocate his peep show palace to one of the three isolated

zones the City Council set aside in 2002 for adult entertainment businesses. But only if he could

keep the full-length doors on the 25 one-person peep show booths â€" a privacy accouterment

grandfathered in at the Mecca but outlawed at new establishments.

The city certainly wanted the Mecca out of downtown but wouldn’t let Holt take his doors.

(Half-doors allow cops to more easily monitor patrons’ behavior during inspections.)

So, Holt said in September 2004, “I’m just going to sit here until the right opportunity arises

and do what we do. I’m getting old, but I’m still making a living.”

When Holt spoke those words, the building that houses the Mecca â€" the Bonnell Building, circa

1908 â€" had an assessed value of a meager $232,000. Pierce County assessed it this year at

$1,139,000. Holt’s wife, Tacoma attorney Corinne Dixon, owns the building, according to county

tax records.

Last week, “the right opportunity” arose. Real estate agent Carole Holder of Sound N’ Shore

Properties called with a simple question, “Are you interested in selling?”

“Oh, why not?” Holt said.

Later that day, developer David Gintz of The Gintz Group toured the building. Within an hour came

an acceptable offer. Neither party would disclose the purchase price.

The Gintz Group plans to convert the upper two floors into either a hotel or apartments, Holder

said. The Bonnell Building once housed the Stothart Hotel. And the upper two floors remain nearly

undisturbed since the hotel’s closure decades ago.

Another concept under discussion, Holder said, involves a dinner-and-a-movie commercial venture

that makes use of the theater space on the Broadway level.

But you won’t see XXX movies with your shrimp cocktail.

The Mecca gained a bit of tawdry notoriety â€" before Holt owned it â€" in March 1974. Municipal

Court Judge Erling Tollefson and four police officers showed up for opening night of a film

called “Deep Throat.”

They watched for 35 minutes before Tollefson signed a warrant stating the film did not meet the

standards of the community and empowered officers to seize the film. The judge didn’t watch the

second half of the double feature, “The Devil and Miss Jones.” But he authorized the cops to

seize it, too.

Holt moved to the Mecca in 1986 when his adult bookstore had to relocate from its Pacific Avenue

location because city officials decided to tear down a block of old buildings in the name of

urban renewal â€" and get rid of seedy adult businesses.

Holt said he also intends to sell his Lakewood operation, Jerry’s Adult Book Stores, by next

year, though he predicts new owners will continue its operation.

In downtown Tacoma, however, the Mecca’s closure will mark the end of a steamy era. I’ll bet most

of you don’t mind one bit".

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on February 12, 2007 at 10:47 pm

Article about the future plans for this building:

“At the Mecca Theater, a porn house is reborn.

Source: News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)

Byline: Dan Voelpel 02/07/2007

Feb. 7—That bumping and grinding you hear coming from the old Mecca Theater this week has

nothing to do with reviving the downtown Tacoma porn house’s tawdry past.

It has everything to do with selective demolition.

By this summer, you can live in one of 12 condominiums on the upper two floors where the Stothart

Hotel welcomed guests for five decades until it closed in the early 1960s.

Or you can buy new office spaces fronting Commerce Street.

By next winter, you can dine on gourmet pizza and spirits at The Broadway Speakeasy while

watching second-run movies on a theater screen.

Or you can relax with a drink in a new mezzanine bar with low light and low ceilings called The

Mecca Lounge. The decor will pay homage to history with vintage backlit signs “Mecca” and “Adult

Theater" and two narrow doors salvaged from the peep-show booths.

“I know over at City Hall they would like us to lose the name ‘Mecca’ completely. But it is part

of the building’s past,“ said Ron Gintz, former mayor of Federal Way and chief operating officer

of The Gintz Group. The family-owned development company bought the 1908 building in August for

$2.04 million.

Keeping references to the past won’t change an enduring fact: The Gintz Group’s reformation

project drives another dagger into the seedy underbelly of Tacoma’s past and simultaneously

exposes Theater District patrons to another apropos attraction.

Pat Nagle, co-founder and managing partner of Harmon Brewery and Restaurant, will oversee the

creation of The Broadway Speakeasy.

“We wanted to conjure up doing an art deco theme in the Roaring ‘20s when everything was happy

and moving pictures were coming into play,“ Nagle said. "Not swanky but upscale, nice, high

energy. Much more of a lounge than a restaurant."

The inspiration for the film-watching-while-eating concept, Nagle said, came from the

Portland-based chain of McMenamins establishments. Guests can choose to have their food and

drinks delivered into the 90-seat theater with two shows a night, or dine outside the theater.

Nagle pulls double duty as the listing agent — with Sound ‘N Shore Properties partner Carole

Holder — for sales of the building’s residential and office condominium spaces.

“There’s lots of character in that building,” Nagle said. “Being in the Theater District, next to

a future four-star (Winthrop) hotel, on Broadway, right off the Link light-rail stop. We’re

trying to be a partner and neighbor and fit into the whole Theater District concept."

Rather than gut the interior and construct new spaces, the partners have hired Tacoma architect

Jim Merritt of Merritt Arch to incorporate much of the existing space, especially in the hotel

floors, and reuse some of the original vertical-grain fir millwork.

Merritt might find a way to incorporate old newspapers found lining shelves and used as padding

under carpets. One page from the Feb. 14, 1938, Tacoma Times features a banner headline that

reads, “Roosevelt’s Popularity Trend Slightly Down, Institute Finds.”

Some old furnishings, however, must go — no matter how historic.

“‘Custody of the eyes,’ I believe, is an important principle,” Gintz said. “But when we were

looking at buying (the Mecca), we did a walk-through. We came around this corridor and into the

theater from the screen side. I did glance back at the screen. It was awful. When I looked away,

the light played off the faces of these old men sitting in the back; it was really sad. We’ve

decided not to use those seats."

At least one noteworthy rump sat in one of those seats.

In March 1974, Tacoma Municipal Court Judge Erling Tollefson and four police officers showed up

for opening night of a film called “Deep Throat.”

A newspaper account notes the investigators watched for 35 minutes — seeing more than half of

the 61-minute film — before Tollefson signed a warrant declaring that the film did not meet the

moral standards of the community and empowering officers to seize it. The judge didn’t watch the

second half of the double feature, “The Devil in Miss Jones.” Yet he authorized the cops to seize

it, too, presumably on the principle that the same guy wrote and directed both films.

The future theater at The Broadway Speakeasy won’t reprise either of those films.

“There will be a lot of fun play there,” Gintz quipped, “but no foreplay”.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 23, 2008 at 5:21 pm

This website has some photos of the Mecca Theater.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on January 23, 2009 at 8:08 pm

The Mecca has been converted to condos. Here is their website:
http://www.meccacondos.com/index.html

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 23, 2009 at 8:17 pm

The information about this building being converted to condos was included in the article that I posted on Feb 12, 2007 at 2:47pm.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on January 23, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Here is a May 2008 article that discusses the renovation:
http://tinyurl.com/cdaohc

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