Shelley Brothers & Martha Manning Manuela Insixiengmay

Shelley Brothers & Martha Manning

Whenever you visit the Wildrose, be sure to say hello to the two friendly, hard-working proprietors, Martha, who works the door, and Shelley, who tends bar. In the early 2000s, the good friends bought this Capitol Hill icon—founded in 1984, it’s the nation’s longest-running lesbian bar.

Here’s their take on Seattle’s vibrant LGBTQIA+ community:


Shelley Brothers on the left and Martha Manning on the right smile for a photo taken in their bar, the Wildrose. They both wear black tops and jeans. The bar has red walls and dark wood floors. It has a cozy feeling.

Shelley Brothers & Martha Manning Manuela Insixiengmay

ON HOW THE WILDROSE HAS SUCCEEDED FOR SO LONG

MARTHA: People care so deeply about this bar. It’s always been hard to make it as a women’s bar, and then during the pandemic, we thought we were done. But our customers just kept on supporting us.

SHELLEY: Martha and I are very stubborn. We did a GoFundMe campaign, we started doing drinks and Taco Tuesday kits to go, and we sold merchandise and gift cards. And the community responded with so much love. Our staff, who show up and create this space, and our amazing customers—they’re our friends and our family.


ON THE BAR’S CLIENTELE

MARTHA: We have a lot of regulars, but we also see a lot of new people coming in, and that’s a good sign.

SHELLEY: It’s a more diverse crowd now than it was historically, and that’s important to us. Everyone is welcome as long as they’re supportive of one another. It’s important that this be a safe space for our community, but that community is diverse.


ON CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS IN THE BAR

SHELLEY: Mary Lambert comes in quite often, and Brandi Carlile used to come a lot and also perform. We’ve seen activist Grethe Cammermeyer, comedian Lea DeLaria, and lots of athletes, like Brittney Griner, Sue Bird, and Megan Rapinoe. BenDeLaCreme used to work here—we would watch Jinkx Monsoon performing on Ru Paul’s Drag Race while we tended bar together!


ON THE BEST TIMES TO VISIT THE WILDROSE

SHELLEY: We draw a big crowd on Friday and Saturday nights, when we have DJs. And weekdays are becoming more and more of a draw—we do Taco Tuesdays, and trivia and game nights.

MARTHA:
Pride weekend is huge for us. This year we have some really exciting entertainment planned, including Gritty City Sirens Burlesque, Mixx America, Dark Chisme, emcee Adra Boo, and several amazing DJs.


ON FAVORITE PLACES TO RECOMMEND IN SEATTLE

SHELLEY: We love Bang Bang Cafe (2460 Western Ave) in Belltown. The boys at Madison Pub (1315 E Madison St) are really sweet, and Pony (1221 E Madison St) is a great bar. Smith Tower Observatory Bar (506 Second Ave) is one of my favorites—it’s where my wife, Katy, and I got married.

MARTHA: Poquitos (1000 E Pike St) is an excellent neighborhood Mexican restaurant, and I always recommend going for a walk around beautiful Volunteer Park (1247 15th Ave E).

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