New owners clean up Tacoma theater’s act

TACOMA – Beginning next spring you’ll once again be able to watch movies at downtown Tacoma’s former Mecca Theater and adult bookstore, but don’t expect “Debbie Does Dallas” on the marquee.

The Mecca’s new owner says the refurbished century-old building will retain the theater as part of its redevelopment, but the movies will be much tamer than the adult fare that once played at the downtown hot spot.

Ron Gintz, chief operating officer of the Gintz Group – the new owner of the building that housed the Mecca for more than three decades – said the theater will be part of a Broadway-level restaurant and bar. Preliminary plans call for pulling out the theater seats and replacing them with booths and tables. The theater could host second-run films, corporate meetings or special live or big-screen events.

The developer abandoned plans to create another bar on the building’s mezzanine level that once housed the bookstore’s peep show booths because that level didn’t have enough headroom to properly house the bar.

Other parts of the building’s Broadway level would contain a bar and a conventional restaurant. The building’s owners expect that new restaurant, bar and theater to open in March or April next year after sidewalk improvements planned by the City of Tacoma are complete.

The Mecca was in business from the mid-’70s until last August when the wife of longtime Tacoma adult bookstore owner Jerry Holt sold it to the Gintz Group for $2.04 million.

The Tacoma developer has spent the last four months gutting the 32,000-square-foot, four-story structure to prepare it for redevelopment. Work on the refurbishment should begin in the next few weeks, said Gintz.

In addition to the restaurant on the Broadway level, Gintz will create 12 residential condominiums on the building’s upper two floors. Those condos will be targeted at the below-$500,000 price range that a recent survey showed has the greatest market demand. The condos will range from one-bedroom 650-square-foot units to two-bedroom, 980-square-foot units. Preliminary prices range from about $225,000 to $375,000, although that could change.

The structure’s Commerce Street level could house two retail spaces. Gintz is now negotiating with two established Tacoma retailers who could either buy or lease those two spaces. Those retail spaces are particularly desirable, said Gintz, because a Link light rail system stop is nearby.

The demolition project thus far discovered few surprises other than five or six dozen empty gin bottles in the attic and some 1907 newspapers in the Commerce Street space formerly occupied by a printing company.

Gintz said the redevelopment will include an elevator to bring customers to the bar and restaurant and condo owners to their units from the Commerce Street level.

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