RIP Watertown Coffee (and saloon)

This is going to be one of those posts where there’s more of the story we don’t tell. Because, mostly, we don’t really know what happened to 12th Ave’s Watertown. We weren’t Facebook friends with the coffee shop by day, bar by night so we can’t see the goodbye messages for ourselves. But CoffeeHERO was and did:

This past weekend, Watertown Coffee announced on Facebook that Sunday would be their last day.


Watertown’s last day tomorrow Sunday 16th – for anyone that wants to celebrate with us come on down and help us drink the rest of the kegs and empty out those bottles. Drink specials all day. We love you guys, thanks for everything. Best customers in the world.

After reading the message, I raced down from Coffee Hero Headquarters and got in line at 1:15 PM.  There was one guy in line in front of me.  He got the last of the coffee.  Before I could order my espresso, I was informed they were out of coffee.  I also confirmed that it really was their last day.

It’s not often we’re reduced to a blockquote inside of a blockquote. But our attempts to contact Amy Vanderbeck and Daniel Perry, the folks behind Watertown, have so far gone unanswered. All we know is that Vanderbeck opened Watertown in 2009 in what used to be a glassblowing factory at 550 12th Ave down by Seattle University. The coffeeshop grew into a coffeeshop/bar. They showed World Cup games. They had some issues with Yelp. They hosted trivia. They got a street bench. And then they closed shop last Sunday, October 16th.

There is a construction application open with DPD for the address to “Expand Existing Commercial kitchen 485sf and Minor Storefront Alterations” but there’s no way to tell from the online records when the paperwork was started. The architect behind Eric Banh’s Baguette Box and Monsoon restaurants is listed on the filing, by the way, but no business name was submitted.

Like we told Elisabeth on Facebook who mentioned Watertown’s closure and her surprise we hadn’t covered it yet thus goading us into not going to sleep and slapping this up instead, it’s rare that a business comes to CHS when it’s getting ready to shut down. At that point, the owner feels like a wounded animal in the presence of a tiger a shark a squirrel a crow. We often end up digging around the trash that is left behind. Why did Watertown close? This time, we can’t tell you, either.

22 thoughts on “RIP Watertown Coffee (and saloon)

  1. They did go saloon-only, about 2 months back. The main room was 21-over, and they moved the coffee equipment to a smaller area and kept that open until 2pm or so. In addition, they re-painted and re-decorated, which makes their closing strange since the renovation was so recent.

  2. But no…This is from another customer

    “I experienced the most hostile environment of my life at Watertown coffee. I had gone to the coffee shop midafternoon on a weekday to meet with my professor and 4 other students to discuss course content for our World Religions class. The manager interrupted to ask if we had ordered yet, despite the multiple cups of coffee sitting in front of us at our table. Finally, she told us that she needed to tables for paying customers and that it was “weird” that we were meeting there. Aside from the fact that the place was nowhere near full (maybe 5 other people there), they’re located across the street from a University. Has she never seen a study group before?? Everyone in there has a laptop and a stack of books.

    Anyway, when we didn’t get up right away, she turned up the already loud music SO LOUD to the point that other customers started to get annoyed. We quickly dispersed and our professor stopped to talk to her on our way out. She dropped f-bombs and called him a ‘douche’. She told us that she didn’t want “our kind” there (she literally said that) and to never come back. The other baristas working lined up behind the bar with the manager and joined in the hostility. There was honestly pointing and laughing as I packed up my books and left.”

  3. Look at their picture in the article. They’re just a bunch of kids w/ a line of credit trying to run an alternative coffee shop / bar. Spreadsheets, profitability, and loyal customer bases are for squares!

    I kid, i kid. Went there twice and found it decent. Was a bit out of my way to go there more often. GG Watertown.

  4. Having worked with Watertown on 12th Ave issues over the last 3 years I have to say that I am sad to see them go. They were one of several committed business owners to this sometimes-struggling area of 12th Avenue and they will be missed. I understand that people had different experiences there (as the comments reflect) but they really cared about where they were located, as demonstrated by their willingness to let us use their space for neighborhood meetings and involvement in issues on 12th. I am actually still struggling with the fact that they will be gone and hate to think of this space being vacant. I hope that CHS or CD News does a follow-up on what, if anything, is planned for the space.

    There is a lot happening at this location right now (SU building construction, park construction and CHH building construction) and I certainly hope that none of these exciting neighborhood-improving developments played a role in their closing. We will miss you WT!!!

  5. “Wow. doesn’t sound personal, or anything. Self-important yelpr.”

    Shit experiences are shit experiences, you apparently take it seriously enough to post aggressive notes to her Facebook so perhaps you should meditate more, or take some anger management classes.

    Getting into back and forth bitch-sessions is not good for company PR, and the other owners should have a nice talk with you so that the bad press you engender doesn’t follow them around as well.

  6. Sorry to see this place closed. They worked their asses off to try to make a fun place in a dead zone on 12th. It was quite a struggle to make a profit and stay open. Self-absorbed hipsters who park their asses all afternoon and buy a $2 americano makes it tough to make enough to pay rent, lights, insurance, etc.
    These are great folks – always friendly and interested in their neighborhood. Yelp/schmelp
    I hope these people resurface in a new location.

  7. I always loved Watertown for not taking any crap from yelpers who think they should be able to complain and get their way all over the place. WT was created to be what it was, and if you didn’t like it, there were other options in the neighborhood. That’s not asshole-ish; it’s honest. Guessing the innumerable good times I had there were because it was devoid of whiny yelpers.

    These was a hardworking family-run business staffed by folks who busted their ass for two years working around the clock seven days a week to make this place work. I commend them for a terrific run. It was one of my favorite places in town, and there’s almost nowhere else in Seattle that embodies the same balls-to-the-wall spirit, so I’m not sure who will fill this void. Where else can you get kickass coffee, lose pathetically to your bartender at ping pong, then cheer standing-room-only for World Cup, play Nintendo and close out your day singing Alice Cooper karaoke? What other bar is going to give me that!??!

    RIP.

  8. Disclaimers: I like Yelp, I don’t know Vanessa and never went to Watertown.
    I don’t think that anyone on Yelp’s issue was unfounded- people write reviews about their experience, when an owner attacks the patron and/or refuses to serve them (from another review) I say this is just a case of poor management from top to bottom.

    The customer is not always right, but the owner should always- at the least- be courteous to the public.

  9. I would just like to point out that not all Yelpers are “whiny”; we’re entitled to our public opinion just like anyone else. If having a bad experience at a business and writing about that in a public forum counts as being whiny, we’re working from very different conceptual dictionaries….

    Personally I never liked Watertown: the music was way too loud, the staff wasn’t friendly, and their brunch wasn’t good. At all. It’s fine if it was a place that others enjoyed; we all like different sorts of venues. But clearly they didn’t have enough of a market for whatever it was they were trying to do, and some of us aren’t sorry to see them go.

  10. Honestly I’m not sad see this place go. They went out of their way to harass and alienate customers unless you were somehow in the in-club. Sorry that shit doesn’t fly. No one likes to be treated like shit especially. It wasn’t even tongue in cheek like the Elbow Room Cafe, where its theater to be a bit snarkey.

    The fact that the trolls have come out to attack anyone who was put-off by WT harassment is a testament to how poorly the place run and the culture they cultivated.

  11. I used to live a few blocks from this place and it was literally the first coffee shop I visited after moving here from NY. The coffee was good but I agree that the service was poor. It’s really absurd that you have to be one of the cool kids to get decent service as one of your regulars states (Kim). With attitudes like this, it’s really no wonder at all that this place closed down – karma really is a bitch. At the risk of sounding too preachy, treat others like you’d like to be treated. Kim just seems like an ass hellbent on denigrating others at the risk of offending these owners. Speaking of the owners – how in the world do you run a business where your regular clientele is raging like Kim? You condone this sort of outbursts? Yelpers and everyone else beware.

  12. “You sound like a sissy. You probably deserved to be harassed. Chump.”

    And you wonder why your business failed?

    One of the other owners needs to rein you in. The place doesn’t seem like it was very gay-friendly either, if you are in fact aligned with it.

  13. First of all, I’m in no way associated with Watertown. Most normal people think there are too many idiots on Yelp–not just Watertown. Second of all, at least one of the owners was gay and it was one of the most gay-friendly establishments in that area. They just weren’t idiot-friendly.

  14. I dont understand how this got turned into an argument over Yelp. Yes Watertown had a lot of poor ratings on Yelp. But I think what people are forgetting is that a lot of small businesses like this just tend to fail. Its just the way it is.

    I personally found watertown to be pretty average, I only went there once and I was not particularly impressed. I do think they were catering to the hipster scene on Capitol Hill and there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that. However that can be a very intimidating atmosphere and can definitely come off as snobby.

    I am neither happy nor sad to see them go, but I think its important not to attack people who did or did not like it. Its gone, time to move on and get over it.