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Stefanie Roberge, an accidental bar owner, says at this point, she just wants to see The Canterbury live on.
“Basically, Capitol Hill Housing wants a yuppie place,” she says of the news CHS broke Monday that the much-loved dive bar was losing its lease for the 15th Ave E at E Mercer corner it has called home since 1976.
Stefanie and her husband David live on 15th Ave E in a house less than stone’s throw from The Canterbury and the Capitol Hill Housing-owned Fredonia Apartments building that she has owned since the late 70s. Roberge bought the house back when much of Capitol Hill was still red-lined and bank loans — especially for a single woman — were almost impossible to procure.
The couple have owned The Canterbury for more than a decade after acquiring it from its original owner Peggy Clark. At the turn of the millenium, Clark was forced to sell the Fredonia and her bar as she struggled to recover from a judgement over The Canterbury’s unpaid employment taxes. Roberge says it was a tragic situation involving Clark’s son, addiction and crippling debt. A buyer for the bar was lined up but backed out leaving a $10,000 deposit on the table. That sudden discount and Clark’s scramble for a buyer led the Canterbury regulars to new careers as barkeeps.
“I love this place,” Roberge said. “I came here as soon as it opened way back when.”
Thirteen years later and more than $1 million in rent later, the Roberges say they are ready to step aside — but they have a few things they want to do before they do.
First, Stefanie says, she wants the opportunity to recoup the couple’s initial $200,000 investment to acquire The Canterbury. Second, the bar has thousands of dollars worth of heavy, tough to move equipment she would like to be able to sell. Third, she wants an opportunity for The Canterbury’s employees to stay together.
“We have the greatest crew — if I could, I’d sell it to my employees,” Roberge said. Unfortunately, she said there isn’t currently anybody from The Canterbury with the financial power necessary to make a deal.
Her hope, then, is to work out an agreement with Capitol Hill Housing to bring in a new buyer to take over The Canterbury who can also live up to whatever expectations CHH has for the space.
While declining to comment specifically on tenant issues, CHH has said that it is open to a food and drink establishment continuing in the space after the Roberge lease is complete at the end of the year.
There is clearly demand. CHS has fielded more than a dozen inquiries about availability of the space from representatives and owners of a few neighborhood bars and eateries as well as a few from off Hill. We’re told Capitol Hill Housing’s phones have been busy with inquiries — as well as people inspired to reach out to the nonprofit developer by saveourcanterbury.org.
Roberge says she’s well aware that Capitol Hill Housing holds the upper hand in the situation and that disputes over the years ranging from the terms established in the couple’s initial lease to noise complaints to complaints of property damage in both directions have clouded the relationship.
Through it all, Roberge says the best solution is for The Canterbury to live on — without them. “We’re only hoping that they’ll let us sell it to somebody that they’ll approve of.”
- Speaking of demand… not one but two (or more???) Russian dumpling joints are looking for Capitol Hill homes. We’re told one found its place in the former Little Shanghai space in the Pike at Broadway Harvard Market shopping center. Marination Station will have a new neighbor soon — we haven’t met the new guys yet, either.
- Coming soon: The Latin art and cafe concept Cintli is nearly ready to debut on Broadway in the former home of Bleu Bistro. Expect a last weekend of March opening.
- Did you see our look behind the scenes at the Social? One thing to make sure is clear — Manhattan, despite its turn in some of the legal and financial problems faced by Social designer Chris Pardo, is alive and well on 12th Ave and has moved on from its rocky start.
- The second best shucker… in the world
- More CD beer. Standard Brewing is coming to the Central District. You saw the Chuck’s news, right?
- Seattle Times profiles Capitol Hill’s Dani Cone, the power ranger behind Fuel Coffee, High 5 Pie and more. Read it now before it costs you $3.99. The Cone-advised Chico Madrid is slated to open on Bellevue Ave this spring.
- Volunteer Park Cafe for St. Patrick’s Day? Um, sure.
- “That’s at least partly because there are a measly 16 tables in the dining room.” Only 16?!
- Yet another Liberty image kicker to end the notes. We’re in a rut. Anyhow, the bar has some excellent new lighting. The better to beer goggle you. Or craft cocktail goggle you. Or something.
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