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Monday, March 11, 2013

The Canterbury Is a Community Gathering Space, Argue Staff and Patrons

Posted by on Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 7:24 PM

CAPITOL HILL HOUSING BOARD Important decisions and beige rooms always seem to go together.
  • CAPITOL HILL HOUSING BOARD Important decisions and beige rooms always seem to go together.
I just ran over to the meeting room on Seattle U campus where Canterbury employees and patrons were speaking to the Capitol Hill Housing board about the beloved (and beknighted) institution's impending demise. Man, living in a city is hard. Here we have a nonprofit doing some pretty swell things we like, versus a local bar that everyone and their mother loves to drink, kiss, barf, laugh, and shuffleboard at. Fuck!

At this meeting, the board members sat at long tables munching salad, and the public commenters sat on folding chairs looking grim. This is where important work in your city lives and happens, in these meeting rooms and among these normal-looking people. How can we decide the fate of such a crazy and vibrant den of sin and chicken strips in this well-lit, carpeted conference room? But that's how this stuff works.

For 10 minutes or so, four people spoke, pleading the Canterbury's case. A bartender named Jen called it her "second home," and asked the board to consider letting staff or the community "buy it and become a cooperative" or letting the current owners sell it and keep it intact. A man named Matt told the board that in an age of density, with tiny apartments crammed in a neighborhood like Capitol Hill, "people use public space as a living room... We need the kind of space that the Canterbury provides." Two other people spoke of the Canterbury as an essential part of the neighborhood, the kind of place we're running out of, a place for poorer and weirder folks and people who can't afford or don't want to go to the upscale places now dotting the hill. It's a "community gathering space" that just "happens to be a bar," said a self-identified community organizer named Christine.

The board members listened intently, smiling and nodding. They encouraged people who hadn't spoken to submit written comment, to follow up with the organization, to stay after and ask questions. It seems like the decision not to renew this lease isn't up for debate, but what this space becomes certainly is. If you're invested in the ol' knight-hole's future, you should engage with CHH. Their next meeting is in a month, and they always have public comment periods. I'm sure Save Our Canterbury will be doing the same.


Comments (28) RSS

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This place wasn't a living room, it was toilet.
Posted by No Excuses on March 11, 2013 at 8:08 PM · Report this
dnt trust me 2
Anna, your writing style turns me on. Totally inappropriate I know, but you really nailed this article, as if you knew where my g-spot was. I think it started with "munching salad."
Posted by dnt trust me on March 11, 2013 at 8:27 PM · Report this
Hmmm... affordable housing versus supporting a business that has a "cash flow problem"... which charity to choose?
Posted by demo kid on March 11, 2013 at 8:38 PM · Report this
Catherwood 4
Goddamit, when they turned the Five-O into the Hop Vine, I grumbled, but let it go because there was still the Canterbury. There will be no more dives up there if it goes.

That said, the Five-O was better, because they had better pinball machines. But still.
Posted by Catherwood on March 11, 2013 at 8:39 PM · Report this
fletc3her 5
I know people have their favorites, but aren't there a hundred restaurants and bars within walking distance of the Canterbury? It hardly seems like its loss will be a fatal blow to the community.
Posted by fletc3her on March 11, 2013 at 9:20 PM · Report this
What good will saving one business do when none of the people who support that business will still be able to afford to live around there in the next five years.
If you are lower-income and live on Capitol Hill, the chances are VERY good that you will be moving in the near future. Get used to the reality of gentrification. And really, other cities have been through this numerous times, and it hasn't killed them. Move on and make another neighborhood hip. Capitol Hill is a lost cause. It's Belltown. Actually, 2nd Avenue in Belltown is now cooler than anywhere on Capitol Hill. Talk about irony.
Posted by ian on March 11, 2013 at 10:03 PM · Report this
And speaking of irony, it's ridiculous to me that Slog is up in arms over this. You've been cheerleaders for the gentrification of the Hill, with your food critic gushing over every new fancy restaurant and obscure cocktail establishment, and all of you promoting horrible, character-less nightclubs (like Havana, for example). If gentrification is a problem, then you all are part of the problem.
Posted by ian on March 11, 2013 at 10:10 PM · Report this
south downtown 9
CHH is becoming a significant gentrifying agent...
Posted by south downtown on March 11, 2013 at 10:44 PM · Report this
mr. herriman 10
i was hoping matt would get quoted. i knew he would be there fighting the good fight.
Posted by mr. herriman on March 11, 2013 at 10:59 PM · Report this
LEE. 11
personally, I long for the day when a friend comes back to town from NYC, or wherever, and doesn't make me go to that vomit hole to see them.
Posted by LEE. on March 11, 2013 at 11:09 PM · Report this
laterite 12
Shuffleboard? Shufflepuck, maybe. :-)
Posted by laterite on March 11, 2013 at 11:32 PM · Report this
the canterbury fucking sucks. Most shitholes at least have character or decent food or some redeeming quality. That place is a novelty restaurant someone took a giant dump on.
Posted by beef rallard on March 11, 2013 at 11:37 PM · Report this
I love that NIMBY is hitting capitol hill.
Posted by F'n F'gs on March 12, 2013 at 12:00 AM · Report this
WFM 15
When they tore down City People's to put in a Walgreens and a parking lot we should have rioted. So what are they going to replace the Canterbury with, a Red Robin?

#8 makes a good point, except for the Belltown claim. who can afford there that cant afford the hill?I lived on 19th for ten good years but when I wanted to buy a condo I had to move to Greenwood to find something I could afford. Anybody who misses the Canterbury can come visit the Baranof.
Posted by WFM on March 12, 2013 at 12:18 AM · Report this
tainte 16
i poked my head in there once. it was disgusting, still smelled like cigarette smoke 5 years after the ban, and they had nothing but shitty beer on tap. no big loss.
Posted by tainte on March 12, 2013 at 5:57 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 17
I know people like to take a crap on this place but it's a bigger issue than losing The Canterbury. It's the constant gentrification of anything that made Seattle close to cool. Look what Fremont has become in the past 14 years? It's nothing but a shadow of what it was when I moved here in '95. And the rest of Capitol Hill has turned into overpriced lifeless corporate-type restaurants and bars.

It's sad that this is where people are trying to take a stand since it's largely too late to do anything to stop it. And it's sad that our city leaders couldn't figure out how to develop the neighborhoods in Seattle while seriously protecting the flavor of each neighborhood.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on March 12, 2013 at 7:04 AM · Report this
--MC 18
On the one hand, you want your public living rooms, you want an inexpensive place to go and hang out and yell and drink IPAs. On the other hand, you don't want a low-budget place with microwave bar food, so you never go there and the owners can't make their rent. Then you cry about it when it closes. You deserve your theme bars, your fake dives with unfeasible names and mole chicken and venison sliders and pretentious beardos taking up the booths talking about their architecture projects with their chums.
Posted by --MC on March 12, 2013 at 7:07 AM · Report this
emor 19
I'm going to blame this one on mismanagement at Canterbury. Pay your fucking rent! I mean, no shit.
Posted by emor on March 12, 2013 at 8:12 AM · Report this
Rotten666 20
@17 Money always wins. But the silver lining? All neighborhoods have a life cycle...just wait another 40 years and cap hill may very well again be the shitty low rent cool place that it was in the early 90's.

While you are waiting, feel free to visit one of the hundreds of Blue Collar joints that are not on the hill.
Posted by Rotten666 on March 12, 2013 at 8:41 AM · Report this
flightlesswing 22
Anna, I wish you'd stayed for the Q&A with the CEO of Capitol Hill Housing after. I went to the meeting because the Canterbury's an institution and I thought it deserved some people standing up for it even if it was a lost cause. The comments the CEO made were a lot darker than just "...they didn't pay rent on time for a few months of their 37-year history," which he actually didn't even mention. He kept saying that the decision to close the Canterbury was made four years ago when their most recent 5-year lease was signed, but wouldn't explain why the lease wasn't being renewed other than to say that the building was constructed in the early 1900's and needs some "upgrades". When pressed, he admitted that no one in the apartments above the Canterbury would be displaced by these upgrades and that the Canterbury would be the only business impacted. He also admitted that their desired "upgrades" had nothing to do with building safety or city codes; rather, they just feel that an upgraded space will "help their investment". When we asked whether the Canterbury could go on hiatus during these upgrades and return as a tenant once they were completed, he hesitated and then said that they'd have just as much chance to lease it as any other business, but would not go so far as to offer them first chance at leasing the space.

Earlier in the meeting, he'd done a 30-minute presentation highlighting the dozens of new luxury apartment buildings going up all over the Hill, to the delight of the rest of the board. There was an almost shocking conversation afterward, where one board member tentatively reminded the group that these new developments weren't pleasing everyone on the Hill, and one man summed up the faces of the rest of the board by asking incredulously, "Who wouldn't be happy about all these new buildings?" Someone muttered a response about disappearing street parking and affordable apartments, but the lack of impact at the table was clear.

To essentially evict a 37-year tenant in order to gut their space, paint it white, and offer it to the market (surely it's fated to become yet another sushi restaurant or, as someone upthread noted, a fucking Red Robin - or, at least, the hipster version run by the kids of the Red Robin fortune?) isn't really in line with the CHH mission. CHH does a lot of great work - the property on 12th will probably be awesome - so what's the motivation for this?

Plenty of bars have been displaced and successfully relocated on the hill - Pony, the Cha-Cha, and CC Attle's among them - but with every other building a LEED-certified, green-roofed, wildly expensive "community", where can a place like the Canterbury find a new home?

The presence of six of us (plus another reporter!) was enough to get the board to move from no action, to "We'll have to discuss this at our next executive meeting..." to "We'd better figure out a way to open up a public forum about this" in the space of 90 minutes. If retaining places like the Canterbury (even if you don't care about the Canterbury itself) on the Hill is important to anyone, I'd suggest checking out the next meeting.
Posted by flightlesswing on March 12, 2013 at 9:26 AM · Report this
From the earlier post about this, it appears that the CHH loaned the owner 50K 13 years ago and that debt is still outstanding. The owner wants to borrow more cash from a bank and have the CHH co-sign the loan (they are refusing to "sign off" on a line of credit), and the owner tripped and fell outside the building and seems to be holding that fact as a threat to sue the CHH. I'm reading between the lines, but does anyone really blame the CHH for wanting out of this relationship?…
Posted by David from Chicago on March 12, 2013 at 9:56 AM · Report this
From the coverage, it appears the owners of the Canterbury couldn't be bothered to show up at the CHH meeting last night. If the owners of the business can't be bothered to support their own business (or pay their rent), why exactly do they deserve the community's support.

I'd also note that in earlier coverage, the owner admitted she wants to sell her business - and there is no guarantee a new owner would keep it the same. More likely, they'd close it and gut it to open a new bar that would justify the investment made by the buyer.
Posted by caphilldenizen on March 12, 2013 at 12:15 PM · Report this
flightlesswing 25
One of the two Canterbury employees present noted that the owner said she didn't think she could attend because she was worried she wouldn't be able to keep it together. I don't think that's the same as "couldn't be bothered to show up" although I would have loved to hear what she had to say. It sounds like the relationship between CHH and the Canterbury is a long and contentious one, but shutting it down to wipe the slate clean isn't a great way to prove that "building vibrant and engaged communities" is what CHH is totally about.
Posted by flightlesswing on March 12, 2013 at 12:58 PM · Report this
"not being able to keep it together" sounds like a convenient excuse from a business owner who has apparently had her head in the sand for 5 years, threatened to sue the owner unless they co-signed a business loan for her, has apparently been habitually late on her rent, and apparently just wants to sell her business anyway. with no guarantee that it will stay the same after its sold (more likely it won't).
Posted by caphilldenizen on March 12, 2013 at 1:12 PM · Report this
Upon further reflection, the owner may not have asked CCH to co-sign a loan but rather to subordinate their 50K lien on the owner's house to a new loan so that the owner can mortgage the house via a home equity line of credit. Either way, I don't blame CCH for not agreeing.
Posted by David from Chicago on March 12, 2013 at 1:42 PM · Report this
i'm pro-science and i vote 29
I remember prying my ass out of bed the morning of Jan 20 2009 to watch Obama inauguration there on a big screen TV, and that day it certainly was a gathering place of dozens.. and I don't go to bars for team sports but I bet it's a good place for that too.

I'm a firm believer in considering bars/cafes as public living rooms. They're important! living is important! community, duh, important (you can make good connections of all sorts at bars, cafes, etc that you wouldn't otherwise make if you just stay at home to yourself.. bad connections too but hell we need ups and downs to keep our lives dynamic & that's necessary for growth :) ). Why do we work and excel in other ways as the fine upstanding citizens we are if it isn't to, you know, live? In, you know, our public living rooms? So, places like are more functional than most squares would think.
Posted by i'm pro-science and i vote on March 12, 2013 at 11:57 PM · Report this
Some of the comments here are really heartless toward the owners. These aren't hip, young, savvy entrepreneurs plugged into the social network. They're a nice older couple, nearly lifelong residents of Capitol Hill, who own a small business, and have been bullied by CCH for much, much longer than 4 years. Maybe they have given up the fight, maybe they were late on a few rent payments, maybe the neighborhood is gentrifying around them and they no longer feel they can keep up, but that all doesn't mean people have to piss all over them. In the two-plus decades I've known them through chatting at the bar (they were regulars there before they bought the Cant' in the 90s), they have always been kind, fair, and intelligent people who care about our neighborhood and the people who live in it. Why kick them when they're down?
Posted by mitten on March 13, 2013 at 9:59 AM · Report this

Thankyou to those of you who love the Canterbury. My Husband and I are trying to sell the Bury to some one who can afford to bring it back. We want our 20 wonderful employees to continue to have jobs. Some of our people have been here for 13 years. They are better than family!
I can no longer work due to long term health problems, I would really rather be able to work than have disability rockstar parking!
Posted by canterburystefanie on March 13, 2013 at 12:08 PM · Report this

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