Saying goodbye to Uncle Elizabeth’s, last of the Capitol Hill Internet cafes

Uncle Elizabeth Cafe

PHOTO: mokmf23 via Flickr

Over the years countless customers at Uncle Elizabeth’s have flexed their obscure knowledge to try to pin down where the Internet cafe got its name. A cat from a 1940s film? Any connection to a gay bar in Bloomington, Indiana? According to cafe owner Danny Beutler the story is much simpler — just something the original owner’s niece blurted out one day.

“He thought it was quirky and memorable,” Beutler said.

Uncle Elizabeth’s will be logging off this Sunday, and with it goes Capitol Hill’s last remaining Internet cafe. Kiss the Sky kissed goodbye in 2012 and The Online Cafe shuttered in April. Elizabeth regulars first notified CHS of the closure Wednesday. Beutler said his Pike and Minor 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.

Customers were allowed to surf for 20 minutes free with coffee or pastry, or buy access for $0.10 a minute. The cafe also had free wifi and $0.10/page printing — a service Beutler said was very popular but hardly profitable.

It’s unclear what comes next for the 1123 Pike space, but it probably won’t include a bar or smoke shop. Elizabeth’s is located inside the Wintonia building — a single-room-occupancy housing project run by Catholic Housing Services. Beutler tells CHS his lease included a “no sin clause” preventing him from having alcohol or tobacco sales inside the shop. “Something I probably would have done,” he said.

A person familiar with the Archdiocese housing program said there were no current plans for the soon-to-be empty Internet cafe space.

Beutler, who took over Elizabeth’s in 2008 after working there for two years, said he had no plans to open another cafe.

“I don’t think anything is impossible,” Beutler said about the prospects for an Internet cafe in this day and age. “We still do have customers that have a need for the service we’re offering,” he said.

21 thoughts on “Saying goodbye to Uncle Elizabeth’s, last of the Capitol Hill Internet cafes

    • People who can’t afford smartphones or internet access at home (or don’t want to pay for it at ridiculous rates) and need to check email after the library closes, or when they get coffee.

      • This is true. There is a tendency to dismiss an entire section of our society that isn’t part of the “I’ve got a condo/car/smart phone/full time employment,” etc. The poor are constantly marginalized and even made fun of. The ignorance and cruelty of our society can be quite sickening.

      • my home internet access costs $2.67/day; this place charges $6/hour (albeit in the form of $0.10 minutes).

        if someone truly had financial issues i’d think paying the cheaper rate to have, on-demand, in-home internet access would make more sense than an internet cafe. you don’t have to be rich to have internet at home – just need to be able to compare pricing.

        and if someone just needs 3-4 minutes to check email then why not just go to the library where internet access is free?

        • Getting internet @ home requires an installation fee. And furthermore, when you use the net on your smartphone or home internet you can be IDENTIFIED AND TRACKED. This place didn’t require you to supply any digitial personal info to surf the net. Some folks can’t afford the installation fee. Or……….You’re too poor to afford a computer/live in public/transistional housing that does nor provide internet access/you’re on welfare there isn’t enough money to pay for at home internet or smartphone service.

          But yeah, for those with economic privilege the loss of another internet cafe won’t be no skin off of THEIR asses!

      • Ummm, they can afford to go to a cafe but can’t afford basic internet? And they are expecting such a large volume of important email that they can’t wait for the library to open? The point is that the customers who actually have money to spend in quantities sufficient to keep any cafe profitable are not there because they need to check their email.

        • So many assumptions – so little use of available brain power! Everyone does not have internet access at home, everyone does not have a smartphone. Travelers make good use of internet cafes, and some of us enjoy real espresso along with a stint with our inbox.

          All clear for u now oh smart-posers?

      • Obviously, there’s not that many people who need an Internet cafe if they couldn’t support it, all the hand wringing and tin foil bonnet wearing in this thread notwithstanding.

        I like a real bleeding heart. A poser is just annoying.

  1. The tech equipment was useful and a neighborhood convenience – and will be missed. The music (mostly) allowed for reading, studying, easy visiting. Despite the computer access and cordial atmosphere, what could get overlooked was the Top Rated espresso; none better.

  2. What a quirky, welcoming place; the Wintonia Hotel was once going to be that up and coming place, a hostelry on the edge of Seattle’s former blue chip, old money neighborhoods. Along came the crash of 1929 and a much reduced hotel, stripped of it’s early 20Th Century grandeur, went on to many uses; one being a funky youth hostel that had a very interesting clientel..
    Uncle Elizabeth had a sort of Castro neighborhood vibe to it–at least in the name, not the least by a close association with that free standing and yet attached nearby “Club Z”. So many of the funky old places are going if not gone.
    Does anyone remember the old location of, “The Kaleenka” that Russian-Slavic pocket cafe which existed one block over on Pine?

  3. They might not technically be Internet cafes, but both Cafe Abodega (where Insomniax used to be on 15th & Denny) and Cyberdogs (not on hill but nearby) both have PC’s available to use.

    Rip Uncle Elizabeth’s

  4. But where now to go for clandestine untraceable secret online doings? At home, on phone, and logged into library, The Man is peeking….

    (Yeah, this was posted from home, so now The Man knows I’m onto him. Drat!)

  5. I’ve been going to this coffee shop for years and it will be very missed. It’s always had a very community feel both with Danny and the previous owner. The excellent coffee will also be missed! It’s also great to have a place in the neighborhood to print something out when needed–so many places assume that everyone has a computer at home with internet and a printer, and a lot of people cannot afford that.

  6. My friends and I used to go there after school, did some homework and tried to fit in with the cool people. We were inspired by the art music, the cute barista and nice awesome cool people. It shaped my life, and I’ll miss it forever :(

  7. That’s IT. I’m done with Seattle! Moving to Portland in January where the good ol’ northwest that I’ve always known and loved still survives.

  8. This place was incredibly useful when I first moved here, had no workplace from which to leech printing, and needed to print some things. Internet cafes are also awesome for international tourists.

    Also, people use internet cafes because they can’t afford to pay the monthly lump sum for home internet, or can’t know that they can reliably pay it. To me, it’s smarter and more responsible to pay per minute, and regulate your use based on your budget that month, than to potentially have an internet bill that you might not be able to pay some months.