It’s been a tough week. There have been lots of announcements of iconic businesses and events shutting down and as a result, people are losing their jobs or gigs, and loyal fans and customers are losing places where they feel safe and comfortable. Others mourn the loss of “old” Seattle/Capitol Hill. A Facebook friend listed all the Cap Hill places that have “vanished” over the last few years:
Broadway Grill, The Bus Stop, Pink Zone, Pig Pen, Retro Viva, Minnie’s, Broadway Boutique, Beyond The Closet Books, The Elite, Manray, The Vogue, Atlas Clothing, Hamburger Mary’s, BLU, Beat Box, Foxes, Chartreuse, Jade Pagoda, Kincora, Brocklind’s, Video Vertigo, Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, Peets Coffee, City Peoples, King Cobra, Sea Wolf, Martin’s Off Madison, Thumpers, Bulldog News, Gravity Bar, B&O, Bailey-Coy, Old CC’s, Old Cha Cha, Old Safeway, Old Lucky Devil Tattoo, Old Broadway Video, Old Bleu Bistro, The old BROADWAY MARKET, even the Taco Bell, Taco Time, and the Jack in the Box is GONE!!!
It’s a shockingly long list, though we’re not sure how much anyone misses the grungy old Safeway on Broadway and only hardcore fast food addicts miss Taco Bell and Jack in the Box. He also left off Septieme, the beloved bistro on Broadway and the home of the beloved waiter Rodney and Mr. Strangeways’ favorite Capitol Hill meal, the Schweinschnitzel. But, someone misses every single business on that list because at some point, they were an oasis or a comfortable zone to to hang out. Someone knew our name, in those businesses.
And, the staffs at The Grill on Broadway and The Bus Stop knew many of our names and we knew theirs…it’s going to be difficult to not be able to walk into The Bus Stop and not see Rodney and Gary and ArtStar and every other employee or regular. Or, The Grill, where Capitol Hill residents and visitors have visited for 22 years to check in on their favorite servers and bartenders and staff. It will be very difficult for many of us to wake up on Monday and realize that we won’t be able to head to The Grill to have a burger and a PBR or Lemon Drop with Elise and Katie and Mikey and “Penny”/Christopher and Joey and Daniel and Dustin and John and Robert and Cherry/Ryan and Adaam and every single person who currently works at The Grill, front of house and behind the line, including owner’s Matt and C.J. Or, to see all the other regulars, a very mixed assortment of young and old; straight and gay; hip and nerdy; and, every possible permutation of the above. Or, to see the queens at “Mimosas” or “Bacon Strip” or the grinning, singing, happy hipster kids at Open Mic night or the drop in divas for Karaoke. Losing our favorite hang-outs is a bit like someone coming into our homes and ripping out the stove, refrigerator, cocktail cabinet, tv, iPod, computer and every family photo out of the album. We’ve lost a sense of home and family.
It’s also bad news for Capitol Hill. Beloved businesses help anchor the neighborhood. When those businesses leave, there is both a figurative and actual “hole” in the street that is difficult to replace. It’s no secret that Broadway is not the center of Capitol Hill anymore and that street life is very low-key after 7pm at night; the “action” has all moved over to Pike-Pine. The loss of The Grill in particular is going to be devastating to mid-Broadway which will in turn effect other businesses. A healthy neighborhood needs to have a mix of the old and the new, as well as a variety of different kinds of businesses. The way most neighborhoods are developing in Seattle, your only options in a commercial area are to eat & drink, followed by going to a gym, yoga studio, pilates studio or chiropractor; over indulge then sweat out all the bad things you put into your body. The lack of retail, and the higher priced point nature of most of the food/drink establishments is leading to bland, sterile and expensive neighborhoods without a full range of services or options. It’s not healthy for the quality of life in a city and in the long run, it’s not healthy for the economy of a city. But, how do you fix the mess we seem to have gotten ourselves into?
Seattle and Washington State need to grow up and stop kowtowing to developers and landlords and create an environment that aids small business owners and not hinders or punishes them with a horrendous tax system and laws that favor building owners over building tenants. And, thought needs to be put into how neighborhoods are zoned and smart growth mandated instead of our current system of “ALL growth is good!” even if it destroys the fabric of a neighborhood at the expense of older businesses and buildings. Vancouver, B.C. and Portland, Oregon and San Francisco have all fought for and largely managed (but not without constant pressure from developers) to maintain a sense of community and integrity in their neighborhoods. If Seattle wants to be a world class city, they need to do the same. If not, then the continued suburbanization of the city will continue and we’ll find ourselves living in a sterile city without charm, comfort or any sense of history and tradition.
In other words, Phoenix with drizzle.
In the meanwhile, enjoy the last day for two fine friends. A toast to them all and a hope for better things to come.