After 37 years, The Canterbury’s days at 15th and Mercer are numbered

It only seems like The Canterbury has been on 15th Ave E since ye olde tymes. By the end of 2013, it will have likely moved on.

Capitol Hill Housing, owners of the Fredonia Apartments building The Canterbury has called home since 1976, confirmed to CHS that the “Ale & Eats” bar’s lease will expire at the end of the year and is not being renewed.

A spokesperson for the nonprofit developer said he could not provide more details citing a policy against discussing “lease issues” with tenants.

The Canterbury remains open and, as of Sunday night, was still doing its thing on 15th Ave E. UPDATE: An employee we spoke with says the plan is to shutter the bar and that staff is not aware of any plans to try to relocate.

We have messages out to The Canterbury’s owners David and Stefanie Roberge to try to find out more about the situation and will update when we know more. The couple celebrated The Canterbury’s long run at the corner of 15th and E Mercer in fall of 2011 with a weekend celebration promising “old school prices, food and drink specials and prizes!”

Breakfast with Team USA during the World Cup

Breakfast with Team USA during the World Cup

The news of impending doom for The Canterbury — in its original incarnation, at least — could be hard to swallow. With more than 35 years of regulars and beery memories under its belt, the bar — surly waitstaff, slow service, artery-clogging chow and all —  is part of Seattle’s dive bar fabric.

A web page has been set up to “save” the bar — saveourcanterbury.org features a mission statement and an update detailing a Monday night meeting of Capitol Hill Housing’s board at Seattle University. “Come to the meeting and ask why Capitol Hill Housing wants to close the Canterbury,” the site entreats.

Calling The Canterbury “THE alternate living room for many of Capitol Hill’s residents and a hideout for several of Seattle’s most prominent citizens,” the site also noted a rumor that Capitol Hill Housing is making plans to make the ground floor of the building it has owned since 1986 its own offices. The CHH spokesperson said the rumor is not true.

We reported on CHH’s temporary downtown offices after it moved out of its home in the slated-for-development Davis Hoffman building on E Union earlier this year. Eventually, CHH is planned to settle into the commercial space that is part of its new 12th Ave Arts development.

The Fredonia Apartments (Image: King County)

The Fredonia Apartments (Image: King County)

As one of the Hill’s more celebrated organizations finds itself getting the stink eye from people upset with the possible end of yet another of Capitol Hill’s longest running institutions, there’s no sign yet of what lead to the decision not to renew the lease. A look at city records shows no plans for any development or construction at the location. County court records, meanwhile, show a state tax payment issue for the business in February but there is no publicly available record yet of how much was owed or if the matter has already been settled.

With the shuttering of B&O and the planned closure of Bauhaus later this year to make way for development, The Canterbury’s bad news has 2013 already looking like a particularly tough year for the Hill’s venerable old timers. Or it could just be the start of new things for the veterans — both B&O and Bauhaus, for example, plan to re-open on the Hill. If there is similar good news for ye olde Canterbury, CHS looks forward to reporting it.

UPDATE: We’re told this is old news for the ownership at The Canterbury. The decision not to renew the lease was reportedly made four years ago.

UPDATEx2: CHS spoke with a Canterbury employee who asked not to be identified but tells CHS there will be time for public comment at Monday night’s meeting.  “The only leverage we have here is public pressure,” he said. “I’m trying to encourage people to come out.”

UPDATEx3: The Stranger talked with management who “admitted that the business has been late with its rent for the last five months and that there is a ‘cash-flow problem.’” There is also a dispute involving medical bills from a broken arm suffered by one of the owners, according to the post.

UPDATEx4: CHS has spoken with multiple owners from neighborhood food and drink establishments who say they have not yet spoken with Capitol Hill Housing about the space but are interested in leasing it.

UPDATEx5: We’ve learned more details about the “known for four years” element of the situation. We’re told when an early option to renew came up four years ago, Capitol Hill Housing told The Canterbury ownership it did not want to pick up the option and did not plan to renew the contract. As the final year of the lease arrived, The Canterbury’s owners hoped CHH would reconsider. CHH’s answer was still no.

52 thoughts on “After 37 years, The Canterbury’s days at 15th and Mercer are numbered

  1. Booooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Let’s protest these greedy developers of affordable housing! Just kidding. But seriously, kicking out the Canterbury is not cool and is surely going to bring years of bad karma to whomever is responsible for the decision.

  2. Tragic. I am sounding the alarm now to friends near and far who have all frequented this fine establishment. Best Cant. memory – finding a one hundred dollar bill in a bar stool and bellying up at the bar on a Saturday night. Niiiiiice. I spent it all that same weekend at the bar!

  3. Pingback: Demolition begins for B&O building as six-story apartment project digs in | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  4. Enough. Just enough!

    I’ve known about the intended closure for some time now but it still hurts. The Canterbury has been my favorite pub for many, many years. Now CHH has “better plans” for it.

    I know that the directors at CHH are not fond of the current owners, but if they had any compassion at all, they would talk to the community and realize that the Canterbury is a needed institution in our little area of Capitol Hill. I know that non-profit administrators don’t see it that way, and to them it’s just nuisance.

    Capitol Hill has changed and is becoming as boring as the rest of Seattle. The infamous block where Man Ray, the Cha Cha, etc. once stood is a block of boring condos with a fitness club on the ground floor. Fun! Just like Redmond! Soon Bauhaus will be exactly the same – boring, bland and expensive. The legendary B&O is being torn down as I write this – all in the name of more pricey apartments and condos. Honestly, it’s too much. Fuck this. I’m so sick of watching quirky, unique, funky Capitol Hill be ruined by asshole developers. Yes, yes, yes….I know that there’s more to it than that, I’m not an idiot or that myopic – but I am tired of seeing this great area be turned into yet another bland neighborhood in an already bland city.

    Keep your eyes peeled because your favorite Capitol Hill institution will soon be razed at the will of yet another developer (probably from the Eastside).

        • I’ve lived on Capitol Hill for 7 years, my wife for 15. I’m frankly tired of whiners who complain about Capitol Hill losing its funkiness like its the Haight or something. It’s never been funky since I moved here in 2003, it’s always been expensive and soulless to me.

          • Since the Hill has “always been expensive and soulless” to you, then maybe it’s you who should move.

            I’ve lived here for longer than both of you combined. I’ve seen the changes. I expect the changes, but it’s never easy when the changes are to the local landmarks that give this place it’s unique character and style.

          • I moved here because I can walk to work and grab a good bite to eat when I want. I’m not lamenting the loss of the mythos of capitol hill.

          • that is a very inappropriate comment. capitol hill has indeed been transformed into something bordering on soulless. and it was indeed something much better. perhaps 7 years isn’t quite long ago enough. was the globe still open then? the condo-ing had certainly already begun in earnest. you really have the nerve to tell those who have spent a lifetime here that they should get over it? fuck off.

    • I’m already starting to miss the Canterbury, but a place that never changes becomes stagnant. Who wants to live where things are stagnant?

    • I couldn’t agree with you more completely. I don’t really have a living room to hang out with 4 or 5 friends, this has been it. Even on the weekend, you can find a spot.

    • I am a native Seattleite and love it here, but if I disliked it as much as some of these commenters I would move somewhere else, and not just whine about how awful it is.

      I think Capitol Hill is getting better. Yes, it’s sad to see some venerable places (like the B&O) get demolished, but change is inevitable. Our neighborhood is evolving into a more civil place, and I for one am very happy about it.

  5. It’s one thing to lose a valued established when it is being replaced with added housing, but if it’s just so CHH can move their offices there, that seriously sucks. The Canterbury is a disgusting jewel.

    • Yes, you are right. Not getting your club sandwich is a solid reason to not renew their lease. Good call.

      • They don’t provide any value to me and have repeatedly fallen short of doing so. So I’m not sorry to see this sorry bar leave.

        • It’s all about you, isn’t it? Nice.

          The Canterbury has been a neighborhood pub and respite for many a thirsty, wandering soul and it’s loss will be mourned by many with broader, more community oriented perspectives than those with as myopic and selfish as you.

          • I’ll cry when Century Ballroom closes, not a shitty bar that fails on even the basic level of service.

  6. I moved from 16th & Harrison down to Columbia City several years back but still frequent The Canterbury and Liberty a ton. This makes me so sad! I’ve spent hours and hours at this great bar. Play a couple games of pool, order the largest plate of fries in the city, grab a beer, play some board games with friends on those ratty booth seats. It really is a neighboorhood living room. And shuffleboard!

    Thankfully the new Hummingbird Saloon in C City has a shuffleboard table but I am horribly sad to see this landmark disappear.

  7. I went to the Canterbury once, and thought it was very nice. I understand the feelings of patrons who will miss it, but I can’t fault the motivations of the property owners.

    Here’s a suggestion: if there are enough people who really feel this strongly about it, perhaps you could form a cooperative? Use KickStarter to raise seed money and have a go at running the business. Distribute the profits among the members of the cooperative.

    Like it or not, this is how things work in the world; those who have the gold make the rules, but they’re taking the risks as well. So the rest of you can either put up or shut up, I suppose. It all depends on how important the Canterbury REALLY is to you. You need to decide what you are: doers or feckless talkers.

    Your move.

  8. If this bums you out, there’s no harm in stopping by the meeting tonight at 6pm at Seattle University’s Casey Building to put in your two cents.

  9. If this is how this Not-for-Profit is handling this situation perhaps the city or someone from Olympia should look a little closer into this groups affairs? I just wonder, with the economy still in the toilet, has this “not-for-profit” helped the Canterbury at all on rent (since one of the recent issues is 5 months late rent.

    If you think the changes to Capitol Hill have been bad, they are about to get much worse. There are a dozen apodments being build and two dozen more in the works. “Apodments?” I hear you cry. Developers have found that a Unit in a building is defined by having a kitchen, so they cram 8 tiny apartments around one shared kitchen. That scam is an apodment. So if the city determines that a site is approved for 20 units, to a developer that is now 160 apodments. 8 times the people. Since the City Council are basically giving hand jobs to the developers they acknowledge the scam but refuse to do anything about it. Best of all, they are only required to have a parking space for each “unit”. Meaning a 700% increase in street parking. Enjoy.

  10. I always thought their service sucked. So I won’t miss it. To those of you who were more partial to Canterbury, I am sorry.

  11. Is it possible The Canterbury is one of those hipster places that hipsters like to bemoan the loss of – like record & book stores – but can’t be bothered to spend enough money there to help keep it open?

  12. Went once. It was dark and dirty, I understand that appeals to some and like the other poster, sorry.

    It would be a shame to replace the space with an office. All the new apartments, aPodments, and town homes going in blocks away, we need all the retail space we can get.

  13. Seems like a lot of you are jumping to conclusions with very little mentioned about the reasons their lease isn’t being renewed. If it’s really true they’re 5 months late on rent– do you really think a non-profit’s charter should give them the flexibility to lease out space but allow 5 months slack on rent? What kind of fiduciary responsibility would that be for a non-profit? What would that say about the trust the public puts in them, to manage their public funds? Then everyone would whine about wasted tax monies.

    I get it that people may like the Canterbury– but if it’s really true they’re not paying their rent, what do you expect CHH to do? And if it’s something else– well, we don’t really KNOW the whole story, do we? So all this crying and excuse-making might be a bit premature.

  14. It’s too bad that the Canterbury – “Capitol Hill’s Living Room” – has never bothered to show even the slightest concern for it’s neighbors. It’s great to get regularly woken up at pushout at 2:00 AM from all the yelling, honking, wolf-whistling patrons. You mean I won’t have to call SPD to roust some lovesick moron blasting music from his car in front of the ‘Bury at 3 anymore? If they had even once tried to ask their customers to remember they’re in the middle of a neighborhood I would mourn their passing as an institution. But they’ve never given a shit about their neighbors, so they can’t close soon enough.

    • If you live near, above, below or next to a bar you have to assume there will be nights when you wake up in the middle of the night because of noise.

      I live on the hill with a bunch of bars on every side of me. I knew what I was getting into when I signed my lease.

  15. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
    OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

  16. Our daughter was conceived four years ago thanks to the Friday fish fry and copious amounts of hard cider. I watched President Obama’s first inaugural there with 100 some odd neighbors.

    If this is truly the end of an era, it certainly feels like a neighborhood passing.

  17. It was my privilege to work/party at the Canterbury back in 76. We were proud of our food and service. That being said, we were pretty stoned. Wherever Peggy Clark (original owner) is, I’m sure she is raising hell – and hopefully has her gin go cup. End of an era indeed.

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  19. It’d be a shame to lose it to another over-hyped, over-designed, and over-priced social status affirming train-wreck. It’s one of the last places in the neighborhood that still treats locals like locals. Institutions do not equal stagnation. Only the profit over quality and terminally bored sets can justify change as a desirable end to itself. Both are in need of a head check in these parts.

  20. Nothing here said that the owners of the Canterbury haven’t paid their rent in 5 months (though nice try pro-developer folks).. It said that they have been late in paying for the past 4 or 5 months. So paying, but late, each month. Vastly different. But shouldn’t a not-for-profit that is supposed to be in place for low and medium rent have some mechanism to help out if someone is having a tough time? If one of their tenants is having a tough time do they kick them to the curb? It’s what they apparently do with Capitol Hill landmarks when the owner won’t sign her rights away when their negligence injures her. It sound very much like this enormous company that runs 44 buildings needs some scrutiny, and pretty damn fast. Do they have any obligation to help those in their buildings (thus, not-for-profit) of have they merely found a handy niche to help their own sustainability? With the City and scummy developers in bed together it would not surprise me one but that 1) CHH is as bad as these revelations make them sound, and 2) the City will do jack-all to investigate CHH and their dubious “not-for-profit” venture.

  21. I really liked this place, but you can’t stop progress, and you can’t stop downer commenters with such pearls as ‘move’ ‘get over it’ ‘can’t wait for something better’…
    I just hope that the next place can have an exotic name like all the new establishments popping up behind the fake brick facades here on Belltown East Hill. Perhaps the name ‘Cookie Cutter’ would attract more and more folks and downer commenters that demand and want to see such change in a world that has changed so much this decade.

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