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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

After 30 Years, B&O Espresso May be Forced to Close

Posted by on April 12 at 6:42 AM

Frizzelle may lose his view yet.

An ominous notice has gone up at B&O Espresso on Olive Way: The building the B&O is in may be torn down to make way for yet more condos. “It’s kind of up in the air, and it won’t be for a while,” Katharine, a manager, told me when I called B&O. “The city put up a sign, and it looks like the soonest it would happen would be a year and a half from now.”

Nate, a Stranger reader who lives a block from the B&O, wrote in after receiving a letter from the city about the new development. Says Nate…

I am really, really furious: B&O is a landmark on capital hill… they have the best desserts ever, and it is such a good place I always keep going back! It is in the top 3 reason I moved here, and I always take friends & family who are visiting Seattle to B&O. The worst part is that they just finished printing all their 30 year anniversary flyers when they received the news. If they would at least provide enough space in the new mega building so B&O could open up again, I think it would be okay. I would prefer not to have a mega building like that on my block, but if B+O goes away it is going to change the feeling of the neighborhood drastically…. Well, if you guys think this is important, then you can get the word out right?

We’re on it, Nate.

Unfortunately your idea—make sure the B&O gets the retail space in the new building—isn’t going to work out. Majed Lukapah, who has owned B&O for 30 years, tells me that the developers talked to him about occupying the retail space in the new building, “but it’s very, very small, 2200 square feet. Once you put in a kitchen, handicapped bathrooms, a counter—there’s no room left for seating. We would need at least 3500 square feet of space.”

According to Lukapah, B&O Espresso was the first espresso place on Capitol Hill, and one of the first three in the entire city.

“People are angry, and they think I’m the one to blame,” says Lukapah. “People are saying it’s my building and I want to tear it down and build condos. People are asking me, `Why do you want to tear this building down?’ I say, `It’s not me, there’s nothing I can do about it!”

There’s a meeting next Wednesday, April 19th, at Seattle Central Community College, at 6:30 PM. “Anybody who wants to complain can meet with the city at this meeting and talk with them,” says Lukapah. “There is a chance, if people fight this, that we can save the building.”

If the building can’t be saved, perhaps the developers can be convinced to expand the retail space to the 3500 square feet that Lukapah needs to keep the B&O in business.

In the meantime, if anyone knows of a space on Capitol Hill that’s at least 3500 square feet, Lukapah would appreciate a call.

UPDATE: Aw, crap. I tossed this up as quickly as I could, because I had to get home. I wanted to amend this post before anyone really saw it, but… too late. I’m already being called out in the comments. Isn’t the Stranger for density? We are, and I’m not all that upset about the demise of the one-story building that currently houses B&O. While B&O may be historic (or as historic as a thirty year-old coffee shop can be), the building its in isn’t really all that remarkable.

I was working toward my preferred solution at the end of my dashed-off post: Instead of pressuring the city or the developer to drop the project, we should pressure the developer to increase the size of the retail space so that B&O can stay on the site.

And even if the B&O doesn’t survive—God forbid—it hardly signals the end of Capitol Hill culture.

CommentsRSS icon

High-five, Dan! Here's more of that unchecked density that you've been pining for. Eat shit, history!

Also, as you know, chances are the building will look, at worst, like any number of the steel+yellow condos going up around the hill, but at best, like one of those brick+green grass office complexes - er...- condos that you adore so much.

"Just like the Pearl District!"... well, not quite. The Pearl District has managed to retain most of its historic buildings.

I guess I'll hold you squarely accountable since this pisses me off and because, in all your chirping about density, you've not made a peep about reasonable measures to preserve historic or significant buildings.

I wonder where the developer is headquartered?

One more nail in the coffin of capital hill culture. It was bad enough with the broadway mall turning into a QFC and the closure of video vertigo. Capital Hill might become another Belltown.

Progress can't happen unless change does too. But what frustrates me is how polarized this argument has become. It's either raize everything and put up forty story towers everywhere (the stranger) or do nothing to anything ever (seattle weekly). These are smart people with, at least, a political belief system that takes multiple POVs into account, and yet they are both so fundamental on the issue of growing Seattle the right way.

We need our old buildings because they give this city character, and we need more density because we have to accomodate more people. We can do both. Other cities do all the time. Our options are not 40-story Phoenix vs. three story Aberdeen.

I agree with Glancer—things are too polarized. And I'm not in favor of tearing down everything and building nothing but towers. But it's hard not to get a bit strident about it when so many people are complaining when nothing gives way to something. The new condos at 15th and Pine? They replaced a parking lot and a cinderblock Red Apple. The condos there are a net gain for the city and the neighborhood. Most of what's gone up in Belltown went up on empty lots—with some distressing exceptions (RIP the jello mold building).

Belltown was a wasteland. So is South Lake Union. it would be easier to take the anti-condo/anti-development crowd more seriously if they didn't oppose absolutely everything, regardless of where it's going or what it's displacing/replacing.

And, for the millionth time, the city is zoned 75% single family. So long as that's the case, we're going to need large condo developments and new apartment buildings in places where zoning allows for them.

Mmm..I want one of their Espresso Shakes.

PETER Wrote:
"Capital Hill might become another Belltown."

Capital Hill and Belltown are becoming
another San Francisco...A Starbucks and
Ben and Jerry's on every corner...Incredibly predictable, and in my opinion, exceptionally boring and shallow.


I don't think "good density is careful density" was saying don't building anything ever. I don't think the Weekly said that either.

Where exactly is this polarization happening, then? Honestly, I think it comes from The Stranger uncritically adopting a developer language of being "pro-density", as if any concern about WHAT KIND of density must be anti-density.

also: "we should pressure the developer to increase the size of the retail space so that B&O can stay on the site." how would you do that?

This is the price of density, Dan. Your haunts get bulldozed once someone wants to add lucrative density-friendly mixed-used buildings to the land.

Dan, thanks, but you may have missed my point.

The fact that Seattle is zoned so astronomically in favor of single family housing is outrageous, especially when the neighborhoods that zoning serves to "protect" are essentially suburban places like Wedgewood and Ravenna that belong on the deep outskirts of one of the largest cities on the west coast, not inside. These are neighborhoods built around the existence of an active and vibrant urban core full of character and interesting street life that people have been attracted to for -- okay, not real long, but at least a hundred years. Exactly the kind of "unremarkable" places you want to raize. Like I said.

We made the smart choice to raise heights on Broadway, a big and wide street that could accomodate it.

But it's tasteless of you to condescend to everyone who cares about the sunny vista termination that occurs at the location of B&O at the point where Olive jags hard towards Broadway. Obviously 30 years isn't historic, dickhead, but that's an older building characteristic of PNW architecture near the time the city was founded that happens to provide one of the best sunny places to sit and drink drinks on the sidewalk in Capitol Hill during the summer. There aren't a whole lot of those considering that Capitol Hill is one of the densest neighborhoods in Seattle.

Every time someone raises a legitimate concern about a building that's been doing a lovely job of servicing a dense neighborhood for a hundred years, you scream "NIMBY! NIMBY!" without even pausing for a second to try to understand why that unremarkable building might be beloved. It could be because we work at Seattle Weekly. Or, it could be because it's been proven to us, time and time and time again, that we should not trust what will replace it.

You're right about Belltown, it was a scary shithole. It's been replaced by an expensive place that people only spend an afternoon in because they live there or they have to. You won't find many tourists coming from Chicago to visit the Site 19 building.

»»In the meantime, if anyone knows of a space on Capitol Hill that’s at least 3500 square feet, Lukapah would appreciate a call.««

lets see... the other half of godfathers, changs, kinkos, noodle studio... the old play it again or whatever next to dicks...

the entire second floor above castle.

If anything broadway isn't lacking in vacant business space.

I and my girlfriend LOVE B&O. We had the apple crisp there last Friday. That said, finding it a new home cannot be harder than if we never built another condo on Capitol Hill. It is the residents that make that area so much more fun than Wedgwood or Blue Ridge. Even though I agree with Dan entirely, I also agree that he is indeed a, "dickhead."

Cap Hillers managed to change the blueprints for the Walgreens slated for Pine and Broadway—they demanded housing on top of retail, instead of a bland retail box. How'd they do it? By showing up at the city's design meeting and bitching. If enough people do the same here—and the developer's got a sympathetic ear—I bet they could be convinced to up the retail space.

Though I champion his contributions in the form of sex advice, subversive doorknob licking, and general sassiness/ awesomeness, I stand by my characterization of Dan as a dickhead on the Slog as it pertains to urban development. As a local, I often want to kick him in the nuts for saying, essentially, "you sentimental babies don't know what's best for you!" when I am from here, totally GET what he is saying and agree, but don't think we should mow down entire parts of town that people enjoy.

We all know that outside of the old buildings in Belltown, nobody enjoys it. Dan Savage wants Cap Hill to become Belltown. I think that sucks. Thank you for writing "the kid" and coining "santorum", but unless I am waiting another one of your NARAL events, I am in danger of kneeing you, right there, in the balls.


I seem to remember a rather large community (thousands of signatures on the written protest, iirc) gathering to protest the latest condofication of the U-district, which will go a long way toward killing the Cafe Allegro (the first Seattle espresso house, not incidentally.) But...hey, I don't think the Stranger covered that story, did they?

Yeah. Not so much. You guys left that one for the Weekly.

Oh well. I guess the rule is that it can only be Important if it's on Capitol Hill.

So, what were the other two "first" espresso joints in Seattle? Cafe Allegro in the U District has to be one of them. Surely it's not the Market Starbucks....


I told you so.

BTW, mostly agree with Glancer's post, but I liked Belltown a lot more when it was a "scary shithole" - I'll cede shithole, but Belltown is no more or less scary than it's been in the last 20 years, but the drinks and eats have gotten absurdly expensive in the interval (and I'd rather not drink with the Eastside noveau rich types who hang out there now, anyway. Who needs a more pretentious version of Pioneer Square?)

PLEASE, people, especially you who live on and love the Hill: It's Capitol Hill. Say it with me: C-A-P-I-T-O-L! Not Capital.

Seriously, B&O is overpriced and lackluster. I won't miss it at all. It isn't historic, it isn't the best of its kind, it is just a place for people who can afford to pay too much for food that isn't worth it; I guess it does serve to bring Yuppies and Yippies together kinda like where Wallingford meets Belltown on CapitOl Hill.

I've been going to the B&O Espresso for 14 of it's 30 years. I can't imagine it leaving. I'm quite sure whatever building the put in it's place will be very unextraordinary. I do hope they are able to build a space for it, but I'm sure the space would look like an IKEA.

No B&O isn't ZAGAT guide material, but it's a great place to go for coffee and dessert (and now cocktails) with pretty much anyone.

Yeah the B&O has been paying rent in a cute space in a problematic old building for years, while the owners have done well for themselves and the employees have satisfied themselves with an urban lifestyle and roommate issues for thirty years. Everybody's happy, and I totally predict the same fate for any four story metal condoplex that might occur at that location later.

Maybe we could decorate it with the same giant galvanized steel quirly q's that adorn that one building in Fremont. Someone's gotta clean that shit, y'all. Maybe it could be the waittresses from B&O?

It's still against the Smart Rulez to say that some density is bad density even if it displaces something you love, right?

I can not profess to have any real opinion as to the dickheadliness of Dan. But I couldn't help but notice that the Land Use Action Notice by the B&O showed an area encompassing not just the building housing the B&O but the buildings next to it.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against density, YEAH DENSITY, except I kind of live in one of those buildings and it might disturb my beauty sleep if they tear down my apartment. And what if they start jackhammering during Gilmore Girls? I suppose it might take care of my mouse problem, but, still, moving is a pain. I suppose that makes me a NIMB...R, so sue me (please don't, I have no money).

But these are the Roaring Noughties or Oughties or something and money=progress and progress=money although I get nothing either way. I guess I will just have to look forward to the day when the place I lay my head is the storage room for a nail salon or, dare I dream, a Quizno's.

What puzzles me is why the developers can't provide a larger space at ground level? to which the B&O could return.

And btw, 2200 SF is not all that small and many interesting restaurants/coffee houses do work in such a space.

The problem with Savage's reporting on these issues is not his point-of-view (I happen to agree with him in most cases) but that he probably doesn't have the experience to know the questions. Maybe there's a good reason it's only 2200 SF -- but what is it? How big is the lot? What else is happening at ground level? Savage has good instincts and is largely wise about where Seattle should be heading -- he just needs more background.

And I don't think that breaking a story like this in the Slog is a good idea. If it's a story with significance, get the facts, report it correctly and talk to everyone before you alarm people. Seattle is full of hot-heads ready to climb on their moral high-horse about development and I don't like to see the Stranger encourage them with incomplete stories.

i'm with mr. x regarding the belltown of yesterday. dan, your original post remarked something to the effect of belltown being no worse off now, after years of development.

i completely disagree. belltown used to be home to many artists that enjoyed obscenely low rents, along with a wide variety of independent businesses. yeah, it was sketchy but (again to echo mr. x) no more sketchy than it is now.

new buildings are expensive. many independent businesses can't afford the square footage. what do you wanna bet that starbucks will jump at the available retail space in the proposed new building at the b&o site? this, despite the fact that you can already throw a rock and hit a starbucks from the sidewalk out front.

welcome to seattle. it is looking more and more like Any City, USA everyday.

b&o is the worst cafe on the hill. bad pastries, lackluster service. i'm not sorry it's going.

there are such better cafe's all over, i can't see why anyone would miss this one.

loss of history of mediocrity?

Capitol Hill culture? You mean dealing heroin in front of the fast food joint on Broadway and Denny? Everyone else is priced off the Hill, and even Pride is moving. What's left?

"PLEASE, people, especially you who live on and love the Hill: It's Capitol Hill. Say it with me: C-A-P-I-T-O-L! Not Capital."

Or if you must use an "a", also use a k - Kapital Hill. The moniker would seem apt given the viability of the two Starbucks there. Honest espresso is served on carts and is consumed in under a minute. The lumpenproletariat has no need of latte!

»»In the meantime, if anyone knows of a space on Capitol Hill that’s at least 3500 square feet, Lukapah would appreciate a call.««

How about they just move across the street when the really lackluster Cafe Metropolitan fails?

Very sad news - my first home in Seattle was the Sealth Apartments across the street from B&O. I found the apartment because I was at the B&O, discouraged about the rental policies, when I saw 2 heavy metal-lookin' dudes come out of the building. I figured if they could get an apartment there, so could I! During those very broke days, the way I felt somewhat sane was to go to the B&O once a week for a borek and latte. Good times.

I'll readily admit to being one of those who are disgusted by what the so-called drive for density (which is way more about greed and upscaling than creating a more liveable city) is doing to Capitol Hill. That doesn't mean I think all developments are eville - there are several buildings on Denny between Broadway and Olive Way that are quite nice - but there is absolutely no care or concern for maintaining the identity of Capitol hill. Or Seattle, for that matter.

the late (and lamented by some) Last Exit on Brooklyn had the Allegro beat by several years (6?), if B & O is 30, then the Allegro has it beat by 1, not sure about the Market Starbucks.

And Belltown sucks majorly these days, but I doubt any of those new buldings will still be standing in 30 years so we'll get a second chance at some point...

more useless coffehouse trivia...according to Wikipedia, the market 'bucks opened in 1971, so that would put it at second...

Starbucks in the Market was NOT a coffee house/hangout.

I'd like to see the great Stranger vs. Seattle Weekly smackdown on whether increased density decreases sprawl. (The SW argument as I understand it from this week's Mossback, is that density = growth = more sprawl.)

Forgot all about the Last Exit. Back when Seattle had Bohemians. Does the Raison D'Etre count as a coffeehouse? Probably not. There's nothing Seattle lacks more than a 50-year-old Italian espresso joint full of old guys watching soccer on TV, unless it's a real Jewish deli, or better yet three of them within a couple of blocks of each other.

if we're gonna get all sentimental, let me throw Free Mars into the mix. the free mars was the original cafe on western, in the spot that became Cyclops.

that beloved building also housed many of seattle's finest and wackiest creative types (as evidenced by the jello mold exterior). they were all given the heave ho around 1997.

condos sit there now. cyclops moved and, while the new location is just fine, it lacks the bohemian charm that once existed on western.

free mars was magnificent.

Huh - Bohemians? Bullshit - real dope smoking full blood hippies.

Free Mars had all the dinosaurs drawn into the plaster walls, didn't it?

Modern Cyclops is an entirely different creature.

"the free mars was the original cafe on western, in the spot that became Cyclops."

I use to lunch at Cyclops, and I thought the food wonderful. Unfortunately, it disappeared and Western Avenue became a concrete canyon devoid of human, animal or plant life....Truly a pathetic momument to rezoning and a complete
disfunction of urban planning. Density? Perhaps Mr Savage and other proponents of density should stroll along Western and see what an inviting and vibrant tomb it has become.

As for me? I now prefer driving down Western
with a set of free flowing exhaust pipes tattooing a downshift beat early on a Sunday A.M. I just truly love that sound of a lumpy
V8 reverberating off those tall concrete walls as I head north to Elliott.


I could care less which coffee house came first....I think the Bellevue Dairy Queen is far more historic (and tasty) than most Seattle coffee houses, anyway.

That said, I do care about the fact that the Stranger seems not to notice/care about development disputes that don't happen on Capitol Hill. It would be a lot easier to take your politics seriously if you gave a shit about the Seattle neighborhoods that don't sit within 2 blocks of Broadway....

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