Police shakedown a Seattle gay bathhouse for payoffs from 1965 to 1968.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 5/31/1999
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 1174

Starting in 1965, Jack Heimbigner pays officers from the Seattle Police Department a total of $200 a month as "protection" from police harassment to the Atlas Club, which opened in 1964. The Atlas Club, owned by Jack Heimbigner, is a gay bathhouse located in Seattle at 1318 2nd Avenue on the fourth floor.

According to Heimbigner, Officers Joe Robinson and Don Kuehl approached him and demanded $200 per month. The police officers promised not to harass or intimidate the club or its customers if payments were made. The $200 was divided between the three shifts of beat officers that cover the area, the two night shifts receiving $75 each per month and the day shift receiving $50 per month. The payoffs continued until 1968.

Jack Heimbigner, owner of other gay establishments in Seattle, and James Barnett, manager of the Atlas Club, testified in a June 1970 trial that exposed the police protection payoff system. The trial led to convictions, forced resignations, and a reorganization of the Seattle Police Department, which ended the practice.


"Life Threatened, Says Trial Witness," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 24, 1970, p. B; "Bribes Detailed by Club Operator," The Seattle Times, June 23, 1970, p. 7; Don Paulson and Roger Simpson, An Evening At the Garden of Allah A Gay Cabaret in Seattle (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 166.

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