Pioneer Banque

605 1st Avenue

Pioneer Banque Restaurant, January 1974
Doorman in front of the Pioneer Banque Restaurant entrance, January 1974
Contemporary photo of The Pioneer Banque location

In November 1973, according to The Seattle Times, a “shiny new place, the Pioneer Banque Restaurant, opened … for lunch and dinner in an old, old site at First and Yesler.” The eatery was situated in the original circa 1890 Yesler Building. The restaurant itself spread out over seven levels, and its décor evoked the past with gas lamps and an antique bank-vault door guarded the new wine storage room. One early review noted: “you’ll never be bored at the Banque. There’s too much going on: waiters and patrons on all levels, a strolling guitarist, old bank vaults to peer into (the 1897 [sic] building once housed a bank as well as a rumored opium den, speakeasy and ice cream parlor), and a menu printed like a ledger.”

The Banque’s lounge was located downstairs in the former site of the 92 Yesler club. The venue’s opening act was a quartet led by a flashy showman/pianist named Galen. Comedians were booked on occasion. December 1973 brought the We Five (who’d recorded the 1969 Top-10 hit “You Were On My Mind”), and then Arthur Lyman and his Hawaiian/exotica ensemble. The place was an instant success: By January 1974 the original managers, Gus Boutsinis and Kyle Smith, had hired a doorman to handle the crowds, and brought on a music-savvy full-time manager, John Dimitriou, who began a three-year stint and later branched off to open his own legendary spot, Jazz Alley, in the U District in 1981.

On January 20, 1974, a new series of Sunday jazz showcases was launched, and by February Seattle jazz icon Floyd Standifer was headlining. Touring jazz stars played here, including: Cal Tjader, Jimmy Smith, Dizzy Gillespie, Mongo Santamaria, Ahmad Jamal, Stanley Turrentine, Howard Roberts, Barney Kessel, Cannonball Adderly, Shelly Manne, Bill Evans, Les McCann, Elvin Jones, Charlie Byrd, Mose Allison, George Benson, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Burrell, Joe Henderson, Chico Hamilton, McCoy Tyner, Grover Washington Jr., Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith, Charles Lloyd, Horace Silver, Jack deJonette, Esther Phillips, Bobby Hutcherson, John Klemmer, Hank Crawford, Stan Getz, Joe Venuti, Charles Mingus, and on and on … until the economics of running such an elaborate spot caused it to drop jazz in 1977.

The jazz scene moved on to Parnell’s and the Bombay Bicycle Shop. By July 1977 the venue was featuring Seattle’s horn-driven funk band Onyx, in August a soul group, Sugarsweet, and in December an African-dance-music group, Ablade. Then the room faded away and was superseded by the Bahamas Restaurant and Disco.

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