One of the biggest success stories of the Capitol Hill cocktail economy is planning a major expansion. Liberty, Andrew Friedman’s seven-year-old coffee, cocktail and, yes, sushi venture on 15th Ave E is acquiring new E Olive Way territory.
CHS has learned that Friedman will be taking over the space currently occupied by The Online Cafe and building a new venture in this growing area of Capitol Hill nightlife.
Both Friedman and the cafe’s owner Nick Woell declined to comment on the deal but CHS has confirmed details with people familiar with both businesses and CHS has verified that staff at both Liberty and Online are aware of the changes.
The Online Cafe began the month of April shuttered with a sign saying the coffee shop was closed for renovations.
When it reopens as a Liberty offshoot, it appears the E Olive Way location may not immediately be a replica of the 15th Ave E original. The Online Cafe currently holds a state beer and wine license but is not yet permitted to serve the hard liquor and cocktails that have fueled Liberty’s rise in the Seattle craft spirit scene.
Friedman opened his bar in spring of 2006 on 15th Ave E. Liberty’s most notable features at the time for many — beyond some ribbing at some shabby finishings — were Friedman’s decision to serve sushi as his bar food staple and a trademark on a revolving cast of interesting bartenders. Soon, Liberty expanded its hours into daylight and opened every morning as a coffee shop. A 2010 expansion created the popular back room and brought in a co-owner — bartender Keith Waldbauer. Friedman’s place in Pacific Northwest cocktail culture also began to grow as he kept the bar on the forefront of the craft cocktail movement. Today, Friedman
is president just ended is reign as president of the Washington State Bartender’s Guild and Liberty has become one of the most popular cocktail stops in the city.
Woell, meanwhile, will apparently bring The Online Cafe to a close after successfully resurrecting the business when a chain of shops it was part of imploded amid financial chaos in 2011. Woell stepped up after working at the cafe to take ownership and keep the coffee shop — with computer rental — alive. CHS talked to him about the venture in summer 2011. “We’re probably in the biggest connoisseur market in the whole world for coffee,” Woell said. “We try to provide the absolute best coffee we can, especially in terms of presentation. It’s not an easy thing to have a coffee shop on Capitol Hill.”
[mappress mapid="26"]Until Friedman has more to say about the deal, we won’t know what other changes are in store for 1720 E Olive Way. Currently, there are no permits for major construction at the address in city records and the state liquor board doesn’t show an application for a spirits license. On the coffee front, as we noted above, Friedman has made a daytime business of it for years and recent efforts by some of the Liberty extended family to launch Slate Coffee could also help to inform the venture. One bit of paperwork does reveal that the deal has been in the works for quite some time — Woell let the cafe’s City of Seattle business license expire with the end of 2012.
With nightlife change afoot on Liberty’s original 15th Ave E home turf, Friedman’s venture will also join a shifting — and more competitive — nightlife economy on E Olive Way. Across the street, night club The Social remains shuttered despite a steady drumbeat of rumors about interested parties looking to move into the offline club. But the quiet of a comatose club belies the hustle underway elsewhere on the street from the Bleu Bistro’s Grotto up top, down through Tommy Gun, CC’s, the overhauled Starbucks, the Bus Stop and onto the bottom of things with Clever Dunne’s, Hillside Bar, Montana and the been-there-forever Crescent. Keep going and you’ll hit Speckled and Drake and John John’s Gameroom. If craft cocktails are eventually part of the mix, they seemingly will fit right in. Sushi? Why not.
You can learn more at libertybars.com. Yes, bars.
UPDATE: No official confirmation from Liberty or Online but we’ve talked to two more employees who confirm that it’s a done deal and that you can expect to visit the new joint in early summer.