There’s a nightlife shutdown underway on Capitol Hill. First, the last unintentional dive in Pike/Pine(tm) is closed indefinitely due to financial issues, according to the Stranger:
Michelle Smith, talent booker for the Comet Tavern, one of the last dive bars left on Capitol Hill and home to loads of great underground-rock, jazz, and electronic events, explains why the Comet has gone dark. “Right now we are closed this week due to a water bill/lease issue. The owner is hoping to save it via a partnership.”
UPDATE: I’ve added “indefinite” above just to make sure people see the details about the hopes for the Comet to find a solution to stay open. More details of the troubled financial situation behind the Comet’s ownership, below.
CHS is trying to reach owner Brian Balodis to learn more about the situation but we have not yet heard back on plans to reopen. Balodis acquired the bar six years ago and has continued to manage it as it was born. CHS has cheekily noted the probability of an eventual redevelopment or outright razing of the 1910 building celebrated — and studied — as a true community melting pot. The longtime owners of the building acquired it in 1992 for $650,000. It is also home to intentional Pike/Pine dive(tm) Lost Lake.
During the Comet’s hiatus, some shows appear to be moving to Broadway’s Highline which recently shifted its focus to live music and events and cut its vegan kitchen.
UPDATE 7:40 PM: A check of court records reveals that the Comet’s current owner is facing financial issues beyond the tavern. According to court records for a case filed in July, the homeowners association for the Belltown condo Balodis paid $409,000 for in 2006 is suing the Comet owner and his wife for more than $10,000 in a foreclosure case:
According to another document, Balodis was served the lawsuit last month while he was at the Comet. Additional documents show warrants from the Washington State Department of Revenue for Balodis and the Comet for unpaid taxes.
UPDATE 9:45 PM: The Comet’s Facebook page featured a message about the situation Wednesday night:
The comet is NOT officially closed we are shut down for at least 2 weeks (through Oct 19) while the lease/water bill issues are resolved ….we may end up closing but for now, the owner is working on a plan. He has a potential partner lined up but is still trying to negotiate with the property owner/landlord. So, we aren’t done yet.
There are currently no records on file indicating any changes with the Comet building or planned developments — the first thing that comes to mind with recent changes in the area. Earlier this week, CHS reported that the building home to the Stranger’s offices at Pine and 11th is being lined up for a mixed-use development.
Meanwhile, a plan for development is reportedly underway behind the scenes of another Capitol Hill night spot’s pending closure. The Electric Tea Garden will be shutting down in its home above the American Artificial Limb Company at E Pike and 14th later this month. People familiar with the situation said lease issues as the property — surrounded by the giant lot of parcels owned by the First A.M.E. Church — moves toward a planned redevelopment lead to the decision. We do know yet know a last date for the club. A representative for American Artificial Limb tells CHS they are currently making plans to move when their lease is up near the end of the year.
UPDATE Thursday 10/3/13 10:45 AM: ETG’s Bruce Mason tells CHS the Tea Garden’s time had come. “[It's] just a classic gentrification of the neighborhood. The only reason we survived this long has been the wonderful sisters who, I think, liked that we were artists and kept the rent low,” he writes. Mason says the shift toward planning for redevelopment has meant a more business-like approach to the property and that he expected a significant raise in rent with any new lease.
“Even with all of our social success and mad patron love our profits have never been that good. Its always been a labor of love,” he writes. “Every month of the last 18 years. We can’t look for needed investment when we don’t have a lease in the future. And the apartments across the way? They will never be accepting of what we have been. The owner of that complex has ‘warned’ me before about our ‘raves’ in the past. Lol. Classic gentrification . It is sad. But it was time.”
Finally, we’re sad to report the planned closure of the last of Capitol Hill’s internet cafes. Uncle Elizabeth’s Cafe will be logging off this Sunday, according to customers of the lower Pike hangout. Customers were allowed to surf for 20 minutes free with purchase or buy access for $0.10 a minute. We’re checking into why the cafe is shutting down and what’s next for the space at 1123 Pike.
UPDATE: Elizabeth’s owner Danny Beutler tells CHS his cafe had been struggling financially for some time. “With the rise in smart phones, people just don’t need an Internet cafe to check email. Some people do, but not enough,” he said. Beutler, who took over Elizabeth’s in 2008, said he had no plans to open another cafe and was unsure what would become of the cafe space at Pike and Minor.
The possible shuttering of the Comet and the planned closures for the other one-of-a-kind businesses come on a rapidly shifting Capitol Hill busy with construction and sometimes heavy business investment in the changing retail and food and drink economies. This weekend, another of these stories reaches a point of inflection as Bauhaus will shutter its original Melrose at Pine location on its 20th anniversary in the space. Like many of the changes, Saturday’s Bauhaus party will be bittersweet — the Capitol Hill cafe will reopen in the former Capitol Club space only two blocks away later this month.
If you can tell us more about any of these changes — or, sigh, have another to report — give jseattle a call at (206) 399-5959 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.