Waid Sainvil is a Haitian who moved with his family to New York at an early age. Brought up in New York, he moved to Seattle with the dream of opening a nightclub. Waid’s Restaurant & Lounge has been up and running for close to a decade.
Waid’s is a hub for the African diaspora community that is far away from the Motherland. The club offers a home away from home, in a way. On Saturdays, Waid’s has a regular DJ who gets the dance floor moving to rhythms ranging from West Africa to the Caribbean. Dancing is a very much part of the African lifestyle. When I clubbed at Waid’s this past weekend, there wasn’t a moment between 11 p.m and 2 a.m. that the dance floor wasn’t packed.
I am a white Washingtonian who lived in Cameroon, West Africa from 1991 to 1994, then again for a year in 2006 when I taught French in the Anglophone region of the Northwest Province. As a former returning ex-patriot from Cameroon, West Africa, I understand how difficult migrating and readapting to American culture can be.
In a distant community, few people understand your interests, tastes, and mannerisms when you adapte your ways to a foreign culture. Comforts of home are seldom to be found. For me, returning to the United States after three years abroad was more difficult than moving away, so I understand many of the trials and tribulations that come with immigration. I know how hard it is to find people to relate to, and outlets to relieve oneself from the tensions of the modern world. I know how hard it is to understand why Americans behave the way they do and how strict and rigid expectations can be.
From returning to my childhood neighborhood after three years abroad to experiencing life in three different high schools, I never felt like I fit back in. Without my family, I would have never readapted. Even today, I often see things differently than many Americans, including the impact of losing Waid’s.
I love Seattle; it is a diverse city that welcomes people of many walks of life. Not only does Waid’s impact the diaspora community, as the last nightclub owned by a minority in the city of Seattle, revoking its liquor license and essentially closing it down will have political ramifications and taint Seattle.
I met Waid at the end of April. His nonchalant demeanor exhibited an easy enough character with keen sensibility. That night he sported a Bob Marley shirt. Despite just arriving from a second interview with the news concerning the imminent revoking of his liquor license, he moved calmly into his club to prepare for the weekly, Saturday African music night.
The fact that Waid’s has had some run-ins with the law tells me that Waid has not fully adapted to the laws of American government. Waid is a bit of a free spirit. I believe that Waid’s can become more law-abiding with some counseling. It is not the government’s duty to provide such service, but it is not against policy to offer such a program, I imagine.
Many non-profits are out there that help immigrants assimilate to the laws of the land. I know that ignorance is not an excuse for breaking the law, but some people don’t understand the severity of breaking certain laws and exactly why a law is put into effect in the first place. I believe that with counseling efforts by a governmental agency associated with nightclub laws and regulations, or a non-profit private agency, that Waid’s operations can be more sculpted to the expectations of city authorities.
In a city as well behaved as Seattle, it can be especially difficult to understand how important the legal codes are to a community and the impact of deviating from these regulations. With a second or third chance for Waid, combined with direct counseling, it is my – a University of Washington International Political Economy major and former ex-patriot –opinion that there are positive effects that Waid’s can have for both the African community and Seattleites, not least of which is maintaining Seattle’s image of a socially and culturally tolerant society.
Waid’s is the last of its kind in Washington. There was once a Club Afrique in Auburn, but that has since closed. Waid’s is the last standing Seattle club that offers a regular assortment of International club music, not to mention the last nightclub owned by a minority.
Waid’s has unique art, a unique atmosphere, and brings an ancient culture to the modern world. Could Waid’s draw in more cultural relevance through artists and performers? Could the ship be cleaned up by having more tame events on sensitive nights, like Sunday through Thursday? Could Waid’s host African soccer game nights and World Cup game nights? Is there a way to maintain the integrity of Waid’s while integrating new dimensions to the club? These are questions that are fair to pose and suggest as a form of making Waid’s friendlier to the surrounding public.
These are considerations that I want to present to Seattle City Council and the Washington State Liquor Control Board as they close in on judgment day. Please don’t turn Waid’s into a victim of intolerance, but make more efforts to work with the nightclub in a counseling manner so that the surrounding neighborhood and unique Seattle nightlife can find some way to have a symbiotic relationship.