Mocambo Restaurant

203 Yesler Way

Contemporary location for the Mocambo Restaurant
Don's Oyster House exterior
Mocambo Restaurant pins, ca. 1960-1980
Mocambo Restaurant Menu
Mocambo Restaurant Menu
Mocambo Restaurant Menu
Advertisement for the Mocambo restaurant featured in The Tea Room Gazette.

In Seattle, there was one place where an empress of the court could dine on Coquille St. Jacques a la Provençale: the Mocambo.

A combo-cocktail bar and restaurant, the Mocambo opened in 1951, and for the first few years, it served a mix of straight and LGBTQ+ customers, especially during daytime hours when courthouse employees and office workers stopped in for lunch. But around 1955 a shift occurred, and LGBTQ+ clientele began to dominate in the evening hours. By the 1960s, it was a popular stop on the nighttime circuit, though not everyone came for the $1.30 eats.

Nicknamed The Mo, it was the meeting place of several significant LGBTQ+ organizations: the Ebony Council, an organization of gay Black men founded in 1975; The Queen City Business Guild, a group of bar owners that grew into the current Greater Seattle Business Association; and the Imperial Sovereign Court of Seattle, whose empresses and emperors graced the tables. The space also hosted the Dorian Society, a homophile organization, the era’s popular term for LGBTQ+ groups. Founded in 1967, the Dorian Society was part social club, part political group, and it hosted drag balls and led gay bar tours as well as publishing a newsletter and sending members of its speakers’ bureau to visit local classrooms.

Like far too many neighborhood places, the Mocambo was caught in the police payoff scheme, though owner Ivan Prather worked out a deal to pay cops only $60 a month, which he capped off with two bottles of Old Hermitage whisky. But even with the cops gone, the place could have a dreary feel, one that customers experienced until The Mo closed, in 1978.

The squat, two-story eventually met the wrecking ball, replaced, in 2007, by the 12-story brick Quintessa Apartments building.

From here, continue down 2nd Avenue to our next stop.

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