The tavern formerly known as The Comet has new owner — UPDATE: Lost Lake partners taking over

There is a new owner for the tavern at 10th and E Pike that used to be The Comet — but it won’t be musician Ian Hill.

UPDATE 11:50 AM: Lost Lake’s ownership is taking over the space and will reopen the bar next year.

There will still be music but its days as a dedicated live music venue are numbered.

“The Comet has been a tavern for the majority of its existence,” new owner Jason Lajeunesse said of the space’s history. “We also remember the days of karaoke and a pool table…”

More details below.

Hill, who has been very public in his pursuit to take over the space and continue its place in Capitol Hill’s live music milieu, told CHS Wednesday he has been informed that the building’s owners have gone with another plan for the bar:

We lost our bid for the Comet today. I just got an email from Stacy Krantz, the building owner’s daughter. The groups that outbid us went far over the top. We had Stacy’s support because of our platform of preserving the Comet and doing the right thing for the people. But doing the right thing this time wasn’t good enough. We put in a very good offer but it just wasn’t enough. The winning group also wished to have their bid remain silent but I do know it well exceeded ours by a long shot. We were the only group to be vocal about our plans with the Comet. Everyone else that went into this bidding war didn’t talk at all about theirs. We fear there is a reason for that. This is unfortunately another case of big money winning out over doing the right thing.

In late October, CHS reported about the growing buzz around new ownership for the Comet which has been closed for weeks after owner Brian Balodis abruptly shut down the venue amid ongoing financial issues.

Where there is a loser, there is a winner — but in this situation, the winning bidder hasn’t come forward publicly, yet. Hill, who has never owned a bar but was backed in his bid by Pike/Pine nightlife investors that CHS has agreed not to identify, says that the partners behind neighboring Lost Lake were also in on the bidding.

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(Image: Lost Lake/Steven Baldwin)

CHS has messages out to Lost Lake partners Dave Meinert and Lajeunesse but they’re staying mum. UPDATE: The Lost Lake owners declined to provide details Wednesday night but told CHS an announcement on the new project will be made public shortly. UPDATE x2: The space will be managed as a separate entity from Lost Lake and won’t get a diner-style overhaul. There will be some live music but no regular performances. A press release on the deal is below.

The 24-hour “dive” diner/bar concept Lost Lake debuted in May in the former home a gay sex club on 10th at Pike adjacent the Comet. Meinert, a longtime area nightlife and music entrepreneur who also owns Big Mario’s, successfully transitioned Belltown’s Five Point into a new era of dive/diner service before partnering with frequent collaborator Lajeunesse of Neumos and Capitol Hill Block Party fame and fortune on the Capitol Hill version. The duo are also partnering on a project to transform 15th Ave E’s The Canterbury.

Lost Lake is a CHS advertiser.

In the meantime, the early steps of the permitting process with the DPD indicates that the building has a small construction project planned for the long-empty retail bay that was once lined up to host a “payday lender” chain. It’s not clear at this point if there’s an incoming tenant in a space that at times past was part of the infamous clubs Sugar and then King Cobra or if the work is related to changes underway at the Comet that will more closely connect the space with its new sibling next door.

We’ll also have to learn more about the future of the Comet name. At last report, the previous operator of the bar Balodis was offering the name for sale to potential bidders. UPDATE: We’re told the trade name “Comet Tavern” has not yet been acquired by the partners.

UPDATE: Here’s the formal announcement of the deal —

Jason Lajuenesse and David Meinert signed a lease to take over the Comet Tavern yesterday morning. With additional details to be announced, the owners expect to have the Capitol Hill establishment open by early 2014. The pair, who earlier this year opened Lost Lake Café on 10th St.,  will be digging deep into the rich history of the Comet Tavern, and honoring its place and purpose as a neighborhood tavern.
“We plan to continue to have some live music, but not every night of the week. We will revive much of the Comet’s lost charms, from pool tables, to pinball games, to a karaoke night, while introducing a small food menu for the first time in the Comet’s history.” said Jason Lajeunesse.
Workers outside the Comet this week caught the attention of a few CHS readers. No worries. Just advertising.

Workers outside the Comet caught the attention of a few CHS readers. No worries. Just advertising.

UPDATE: In a strange little sidebar to the big news, we’ve also found some more DPD-related activity at the building. The city has issued the business owners with a violation notice for the large banner installed without a permit above 10th and Pike advertising Westland Whiskey. According to city records, a DPD representative has visited the address twice including November 4th when the owners were issued a second violation notice about the banners. Records show the permit application process was started but DPD never issued the paperwork. “Compliance” is due by November 19th after which fines or legal action may take place. We’ve written about similar situations in Pike/Pine as landowners look to squeeze every opportunity out of the busy streets of the neighborhood.

64 thoughts on “The tavern formerly known as The Comet has new owner — UPDATE: Lost Lake partners taking over

    • yes, if only there were someplace people could go with a really gritty feel, some level of down n out realness – but with a $200K buildout and have everything be really new and clean so the people who go won’t blink an eye at the $10 craft cocktails.

      Maybe there will be valet service! I hear parking in that area is a total headache.

      • Ive lived on capital hill for ten years only to watch it switch a 180 into the neighborhood I know and love into a weekend full of amateurs. Comet tavern was a staple, just like many places through out the hill-whether they survived through the neighborhood change or not… I hope they fix up the place, but don’t change it for what it’s worth to the NEIGHBORS -haha valet service, really? So Bellevue and Kirkland can easily find a place to park … No thanks

  1. Who IS Ian Hill? Is he even from Capitol Hill? What a whiny baby. Really? You didn’t get to rent a space and so you put out a press release? And you were backed by Pike/ Pine nightlife investors? Sounds like you were the big money backed person. Sounds like someone else had a better idea and got the contract. Obviously the building owner thinks so. Hopefully someone with some business experience.

    • If memory serves me, there was a series of gay bars where Lobby Bar is now (I remember when it was The Balcony, but I don’t remember the names after that). They expanded into the space to the East (the space mentioned in the article) to add in a dance floor (I used to go to Latino night there). That later became Spintron, then Sugar, then King Cobra. I never went to those last three so I don’t know when they divided up the areas again. I thought it had remained a singe space until Lobby Bare went in.

      • the expansion to the east was when it was The Easy, back when Seattle had two lesbian bars (sigh). Prior to that there was some sort of convenience store in that weird middle space, I believe.

        The Easy was there for 5 years and then got an offer to sell and from that point forward it became a series of gay (boy) bars. And Seattle lesbians are forced to endure the profound disappointment of the Wildrose.

        • That’s the first negative comment about the Wildrose that I have ever seen. I thought it was popular and much-loved…..??

    • Both spaces were part of the same venue before Lobby took on the western half only. In previous incarnations (Spintron, Ego, FX, Club 916, Sugar, and I believe King Cobra) the western half (now Lobby) was the bar/lounge area, and the eastern half (now empty) was the dance floor. There was also a catwalk/overlook onto the dance floor from the second floor of the bar side.

  2. Prior to it’s numerous brief incarnations as gay nightclubs and rock venues, this was the long-time home for the Seattle Boxing Club. IIRC, both the current Lobby Bar and the adjacent space were part of the same complex, which was split in-two after the closing of King Cobra.

  3. Aaaaannnddd it gets sold to more out-of-state developers, so people feel better about themselves when spending $15 on a drink. Bravo.

    • If the new owners are indeed from out-of-town, then what this really means is NOT “more MONEY” for CapHill, but instead $$$ siphoned off to some CA or East Coast development company.

      Deal with THAT!

  4. The booking at The Comet has been fantastic. It’s been a real luxury to have so much good to great live music (most nights a week/ several bands a night) in a space that size. No matter what happens to the property, I’m afraid that’s not coming back.

  5. I’ve lived here for twenty years, and what used to be a nice little community with a diverse mixture of stores and restaurants for families and singles all incomes has turned into a playground for single Eastside poseurs and Amazon brats.

  6. Rumour has it that the new owners plan to completely gut the Comet space and introduce a new dive-bar concept. Including distressed faux wooden paneling, graffiti throughout by legendary artist Banksey, and denominations from around the world artfully arranged on the ceiling. Expect the menu at Le Comète to include duck liver pâté, roasted beef marrow bones, and Beecher’s cheese poutine. Cocktails will be hand crafted from fresh squeezed fruits and local liquors. Rainier is expected to be ironically available for $4 a tall-boy.

  7. Actually, we’re thinking sort of a hipster chuck-e-cheese concept, with topas. With a cider bar. And it’ll be called “thcmt.”

  8. The foie gras at Mario’s is awesome! Duh. They aren’t from out of town and the reason hat guy was outbid was not so much the rent probably but to keep the rights to the name, which is an obvious indication that they want to preserve it.

  9. Congrats!
    The Comet was one of the first bars I went to after moving here in 1990. AND, I was one of the last employees before the place was shut down. All I hope is that they will give the employees who lost their jobs a chance to work there or even just an interview. We surely went threw alot working there. I was a little bummed because Ian Hill was at our Comet Benifit for the employees and he told us we all for sure will have our jobs back if he gets the place. Hew knew we got screwed. Anyways, please concider it?
    Suzanne

  10. So sad to see the trolls come out when community members step up to do something positive. You obviously don’t know anything about Meinert, where he comes from or how he got to where he is. He’s a dude who has earned every dollar he has on his own, working hard and taking chances. It’s paid off, and thank god The 5 Point didn’t get changed the way The Rendezvous or Frontier Room did. And now we get to see The Comet preserved and finally owned again by a real local.

    • Yeah, I am pretty confused at all of the vitriol. The 5 Point is an awesome Seattle institution and people can hate Lost Lake all they want but it’s not as hipster as people make out and did fill a real gap on the hill (in terms of 24 hour diners). I imagine that the spirit of the Comet will be upheld, and at least I am glad it won’t be a bank.

      • Meinert is Seattle’s most vocal conservative lobbyist, working towards crushing working people. Fought for the failed law fining panhandlers, tried to legalize gambling in bars, editorialized against the millionaire’s income tax because it would hurt “small business owners” like himself, weakened the sick leave law, dishonestly wrote a press release for all bar owners against McGinn (even his partner wrote a statement saying he disagreed with Meinert), etc etc etc.

        He also pumps money into media outlets so they give him positive press. He’s great at marketing and conservative lobbying, not good for Seattle. Expect to see loads of press for the Comet, he spotted a golden opportunity to make an even greater fortune off its name that he’ll turn around to fight against a higher minimum wage or whatever progress this city needs to make so that he gets even richer. Bad, bad man.

        • It’s totally true. I am a secret right winger! I back gun control, Planned Parenthood, increased taxes, a higher minimum wage, single payer health care, food labeling, and all those crazy ideas because I know, in the end, they serve my evil empire! And you blew my cover, but now Seattle must know, I actually own The Stranger and CHS. Justin is my puppet. And those 20 music/nightlife business owners, all my pawns. It’s amazing you know all this stuff about me. Dammit! (Ps, this message brought to you by Pabst).

          • lololol.

            Dave, you also write the best responses to negative reviews on Yelp. Congrats on the purchase. Can’t wait to see what you do with the Comet and the Canterbury!

          • You’re not a “secret right winger”, you’re very up front about it. Remember that editorial you wrote against the millionaire’s income tax that you told Publicola to delete immediately after the election? Remember the editorials pushing for the police to issue fines against panhandlers? Remember when you fought against sick leave unless it was amended so it exempted your businesses? Remember when you pushed and pushed to legalize gambling in your bars? Remember how you’re on the conservative side of just about every other single issue in seattle politics, lobbying very hard?

            Maybe you never leave Broadmoor, but being for gun control and being fine with abortion is the bare minimum to allow entry into seattle. That might make you a progressive in rural Alabama, but not here.

        • He is worse than a right winger, at least you know where they are coming from, instead of someone who pretends to be your cool hip friend while screwing you.

          Dave is more authoritarian, he wants to eliminate your rights and freedoms (gun control), while encouraging government partnership to give him more money power and control. Meanwhile preaching that it is for the collective good.

          If anything he is a down right Fascist in the classic sense.

          His condescending Doucehbag attitude is pretty evident in his post. As well as his general attitude of “rights for me but not for thee”

          But what can you expect from a man who makes his money on selling a false sense of authenticity to the inauthentic.

          But this post will be most likely be quickly erased like most critics of Meinhert that appears in this blog. I guess he is getting his money’s worth in advertising.

  11. No matter how much money went into the place; every investor new that there would be a return. Otherwise, what would be the point of investing? Duh. I love the guys from Lostlake/ 5point. I’m really excited to see what they bring out of the old Comet. I too have some really great distorted memories there, but I also hope that the new owners cater to the entertainment that the Comet once had.
    Take care,

  12. 35+ comments here, and nobody has noticed their press release says Lost Lake is on 10th St? I’m pretty sure Seattle doesn’t even have a 10th St. But in any case, Lost Lake is on 10th AVENUE.

  13. Workers of the world unite and seize the means of intoxication! Socialize dive bars now! Overthrow the greedy pigs seeking to capitalize on our desire for cheap beer. Malted beverages are a right of man and will not be denied.

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