Closure: Investing in Ballard, B&O closes door on Capitol Hill return

In an alternate universe, this B&O will exist in 2014. But not in yours.

In an alternate universe, this B&O will exist in 2014. But not in yours.

For many on Capitol Hill, the mitigating factor that has kept B&O Espresso’s neighborhood exit from being pure tragedy is the glimmer of a future return for the cafe when the six-story apartment building being built at E Olive Way and Belmont is completed in two years.

You may now go ahead and openly weep. Let it out. B&O is not coming back.

“Well, I wouldn’t say never. You never know where the road is going to take you,” Jane Lukatah said as she and husband Majed are working on the purchase of the space where B&O has made its new home in Ballard.

“We’re doing great in Ballard and parking is not a problem,” she said.

IMAG1864 (1)“It was just going to be too expensive,” Lukatah told CHS about a Capitol Hill return. She had also told a neighborhood media outlet in Ballard that she wasn’t looking forward to the work involved in yet another move.

News of the planned Ballard investment in the retail suite beneath the North Seattle condo development B&O now calls home will strike a tone of finality in the public conversation on the cafe’s fate. In addition to solidifying their place in Ballard’s food and drink mix, the major investment means the Lukatahs will not be working on a deal to return to the corner where the B&O was born in 1976.

The on again, off again relationship between the B&O ownership and developer John Stoner has apparently ended with the cafe once again not part of the development despite efforts at working out a deal and the reemergence of a future Capitol Hill B&O in the project’s plans. Architects went so far as to include the cafe’s iconic train logo in renderings of the six-story building’s design used in public meetings. B&O’s web site still offers this bittersweet promise: “Upon completion of a new building at our present site, B&O Espresso plans to reopen again at our original location in 2014.”

8446811782_6b375257c6_oStoner purchased the property for $2.3 million in 2008 and began the process to create a six-story, 78-unit building with 3,600 square feet of retail plus underground parking for 52 vehicles. Initial community reaction was not supportive and the design by architects Nicholson Kovalchick was widely panned even as the project moved through review and was ultimately approved. An effort to landmark the building was rejected. An appeal against the development’s land use approval was tossed out.

Through it all, B&O’s owners said many things — including announcing a premature closure in 2011. But by late 2012, the plan appeared to be an end of the year closure on E Olive Way then a sabbatical in Ballard, followed by a triumphant return to the Hill. We reported on that and a similar plan for Pine at Melrose’s Bauhaus in December: B&O, Bauhaus share journey to Ballard and, maybe, both to rise again on Capitol Hill

Bauhaus remains open through at least this summer in its Capitol Hill home. Here’s hoping that CHS headline won’t be completely wrong by the time 2014 or 2015 rolls around.

Meanwhile, B&O is plenty pleased with its new surroundings. For Lukatah, it’s like she never left and NW Leary Way — condos and all — is the Capitol Hill she knew and loved.

“I’m amazed how many live in Ballard,” she said. “So many of our longtime customers have  moved here.”

29 thoughts on “Closure: Investing in Ballard, B&O closes door on Capitol Hill return

  1. Sad that they won’t return but it makes sense to not shuffle your business back and fourth. Too bad they either couldn’t find a new spot on the hill to immediately move into or do not plan to open a 2nd location with that spot being on the hill.

    I’ve always enjoyed B&O but won’t make the trek to Ballard to visit them.

    • Agreed with your last point. Sure it was a great place to go, but not 40-60 minutes and 1-2 bus transfers good. Most of what made it worth it was the convenience of a 5 minute walk.

  2. Why do business owners assume everyone drives? Parking was never an issue for B&O on the hill, because it was located in one of the densest, most walkable parts of the city. Yes, the place was good, but not “spend close to an hour on buses to get to Ballard” good. They will be missed. Hopefully that restaurant location isn’t replaced with some trashy chain restaurant.

    • They might mean parking for themselves and their employees. Their old location has some of the worst parking on the hill.

    • I don’t think they assume everybody drives. But they know that some people do, and parking is important for some people.

  3. I don’t blame the B&O at all for staying put in Ballard…in some ways, that is a calmer and better place for them…..fewer social misfits/street people causing trouble(example: the nasty assault on a person who refused to give money, two blocks east of the old B&O), less crime (example: The Social across the street), less litter/graffiti and shabby old posters everywhere, and better parking. These things do have an effect on whether or not a business owner wants to stay on Capitol Hill. Fortunately they do not exist everywhere in our neighborhood, but they are rampant in certain locations, such as E. Olive Way.

    I wish them well…the B&O is a great business.

  4. Well, this just sucks:-( B&O was one of my crowd’s favorite, local, weekend breakfast locations. With all the other great options on Capitol Hill, we won’t be trekking out to Ballard just to remain B&O customers. I certainly understand the owners’ position and wish them great success. It’s too bad they don’t seem to be considering opening back up on the Hill as a second location. The customer desire is certainly there.

  5. I will totally miss the cheesecake but dinner food was just too expensive to justify going there. There are 2 Mediterranean places within walking distance of where I live that are lower priced and just as good.

  6. Well, that totally SUCKS. I am grieving in my soul. Please reconsider as you were the best dessert in town. Also, amazing breakfast and lunch, and not to mention a killer dinner. Just last night, as some friends and I were discussing dessert options, we all moaned at the same time saying, “If only B&O were still here…” Seriously guys, please don’t throw your loyalties to Capitol Hill out the window just because Ballard is quaint. I’ve lived in both neighborhoods, and I don’t appreciate my taste buds being left in the dust. End of rant.

    Nick in Cap Hill

    • It’s not just because Ballard is “quaint”. Anyone who hasn’t been to Ballard lately would be absolutely blown away by it now. As someone else has already said, Ballard has everything that used to be great about Capitol Hill without all the riffraff, degenerates, and beggars. It’s thriving, it’s fun, it has history too, and it’s clean. Is it worth taking two buses to go to B&O? No, of course not. But even if none of the customers from Capitol Hill head to Ballard, they’re going to do fine.

      • Wait, WHUT? Ballard has plenty of “riffraff” – plenty fo old street drunks begging, and a large population of people living in their RVs and trucks, etc. Then when you try to go out on Fridays and Saturdays the Ballard Ave sidewalks are full of drunk, rude, asshole Eastsider types. It’s also the only neighborhood in Seattle I’ve ever gotten shit for riding my bike. I moved there for awhile and was so happy to come back to our friendly Hill, beggars and ratty posters and all. I miss B&O though and wish them well in their new location.

        • LMAO, This is the most ridiculous statement. Easter Siders are not driving to fucking Ballard to hang out. Where are “they” coming from.

          • I’m reading the comment as East Sider “types”, not implying folks are actually commuting from the Eastside to Ballard.

          • Not to mention that 20 years ago the hill had Taco Time, Taco Bell, KFC, Jack in the Box, Burger King….

            Today none of those exist yet (according to many here) the hill is becoming overrun with corporate establishments *rolls eyes.

  7. Head on over to Ballard for your favorite B&O desserts and coffee, or crepes (savory and sweet), or stop by if you find yourself in the area. Reminds me of the B&O in its early days (late 70s), small, cozy, pleasant place to hang out by yourself or with a friend.

  8. Hopefully we’ll wind up with another tanning salon or chain pizza place – we don’t have enough of those yet

  9. Capitol Hill is over. Welcome to mediocrity. Then because these new buildings are only to last for 20 – 30 years Capitol Hill will become a ghetto.

    • While we can’t predict the future, looking back at the past it’s very well possible. Most neighborhoods come, go and come back again. The hill is no different.

    • For a bit of history, 20+ years ago it was referred to as the ‘gay ghetto’ You might not of known that if you are a young whipper snapper and transplant to the hill. Much like Pioneer Square and Belltown the cycle will continue.

        • Not to mention that 20 years ago the hill had Taco Time, Taco Bell, KFC, Jack in the Box, Burger King….

          Today none of those exist yet (according to many here) the hill is becoming overrun with corporate establishments *rolls eyes.

          Sorry, I replied to the wrong post above.

  10. Don’t these builders realise that by kicking out businesses that make Capitol Hill what it is, they lower the overall appeal of moving to Capitol Hill? That’s just bad business sense.

    • Agreed. That is exactly what I have been trying to point out for some time now. Most especially when the Hill becomes so utterly devoid of personality and pricey that we lose the artists and musicians who have added so much character to the area.

    • Nah. They’ll make big bucks and get out before those that remain realize that they’ve bought into a place that doesn’t exist anymore.

  11. They are sensible to focus on one location.

    I remember B&O’s second location when it was in the Broadway Market – they had far less of a personal feel when they were running two locations.

    As for the demise-of-the-hill comments above, the hill has become much better overall in the last few decades. Worlds fair era builidings have given way to far better housing stock. Classic homes and apartments have been renovated from dilapidation, and fast food has been replaced by a huge variety of restaraunts.

    Do we really wish it was still auto row up here? The hill was originally the home to gay bars because it was a bad area – not because it was fabulous.

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