Neumos partner, Sam’s Tavern owner in new deal for old Canterbury

CHS was correct in reporting last Sunday, December 15th, was the last “knight” for Ye Olde Canterbury before a 2014 filled with an overhaul — and new owners.

But behind the scenes, a new deal for the old bar has been worked out.

When the sun rises in the spring of 2014 on a new Canterbury Ale & Eats, Pike/Pine restauranteur James Snyder and Neumos club partner Mike Meckling will have replaced two princes of Pike/Pine in carrying the project forward.

“Mike and I have been looking to do a project for awhile now,” Snyder tells CHS. “We’ve been touring spaces and trying to get into something.”

That opportunity came as Snyder says Capitol Hill Housing, the owner of the Fredonia Apartments building the Canterbury has called home since 1976, reached out to this fall to say the lease at 15th and Mercer was available. CHH had earlier announced it was working with Lost Lake partners Jason Lajeunesse and David Meinert to transition the Canterbury to a more resident-friendly version of the tavern that would serve as “a comfortable, accessible, third place” suitable for “a variety of income levels.” But in early November, news broke that Lajeunesse, also part of the Neumos partnership, and Meinert were taking over their E Pike neighbor The Comet, an opportunity that Snyder also had coveted. Suddenly the Canterbury was available.

“I’m trying to build restaurants,” Snyder says of the dealings. “That’s all it comes down to — if I’m a good fit for the space. I don’t look at it as rivalry.”

“After the community focus group and much discussion with Dave and Jason, we all felt a shift in the business model would be a better fit for a very much residential community,” Capitol Hill Housing CEO Chris Persons told CHS via email. “They helped bring Mike into the picture.”

UPDATE: Lajeunesse sent a note on the change via email:

In regard to us departing from the Canterbury project: After sitting through the focus groups and spending more time at the Canterbury, one of the major issues that started to surface for us was the inevitable issues we were going to have with the residential neighbors. As our business model started to really take shape, and materialize, we realized that we were actually building the wrong business for that space. After deliberating long and hard, we decided that the project might be better suited to someone else, who had a different vision than us. CHH has been so great to work with, and as current supporters of the organization, it was imperative we made the right decision for everyone involved, as hard as it was to let go.

Snyder, who opened Sam’s Tavern at E Pike and 11th just a few days before New Year’s 2013, said he visited the Canterbury in its final days and got to know a few of the regulars to find out what made the place a nearly 40-year survivor. He also had a few of the Canterbury regulars come visit Sam’s. While there will be a significant overhaul to the space, Snyder and Meckling — who got to know each other as Sam’s got going on E Pike — are hoping to keep the feel of the original Canterbury. “We want to keep the embedded culture,” Snyder said.

Meckling and Snyder also helped Stefanie and David Roberge, owners of the bar for the past decade, get a good start on retirement, buying the business lock, stock and a few smoking barrels — including the Canterbury name.

Snyder, a son of the Red Robin clan, says his first year of business at Pike/Pine will help as he prepares 15th Ave’s Canterbury for a hoped-for May 2014 re-opening.

“It’s been a great experience. It’s been really successful,” he says of Sam’s. “We’re developing a really cool culture that’s needed up on Capitol Hill.”

“But we weren’t as prepared as we should have been,” Snyder said. “We changed the burgers within the first two months. And the fries within the first 2 months.”

Snyder says he’ll be more food-focused from the start this time around. It makes sense given his family bloodlines. There’s a new son of Red Robin, by the way. Snyder’s home is busy this holiday with new baby Grady, born last week.

Snyder will surely have some words of wisdom for his son about doing business on Capitol Hill.

“Capitol Hill is about share,” Snyder told CHS. “There’s more people up on Capitol Hill than any other part of Seattle. If we’re providing a need for people in the area we’re doing something right.”

16 thoughts on “Neumos partner, Sam’s Tavern owner in new deal for old Canterbury

  1. For those of us who have known it from its earliest days in the late 70s and 80s–when the lines for breakfast rivaled those we now see at Coastal Kitchen–we can only hope that the new owners return it to THOSE glory days and not that of the last decade+ of mediocre food and service.

  2. “We’re developing a really cool culture that’s needed up on Capitol Hill.”

    Apparently, we were just highly uncool barbarians before upscale dives and the bridge and tunnel crowd showed up a few years ago…

  3. Was not impressed with Sam’s, and don’t agree that these guys are bringing a “cool culture” anywhere. But hopefully they recognize what made the Canterbury good (and what made it smell) and do the right thing. Hopefully.

  4. yeah, this is bummer news indeed. i haven’t been to sam’s before, and i can’t recall if lajeuneusse is involved with meinert’s efforts at the 5 point or not, but i was really hoping their efforts with the canterbury would essentially be “operation 5 point facelift 2.0,” where they keep it virtually the same but make it better by serving food that’s a grade higher than what was there previuosly, yet still not too showy or pretentious. as a neighbor living within the 15th ave e corridor, i’ll have to check out sam’s and get a preview of what i’m in store for. but i really wanted a 5 point 2.0 :(.

  5. Sad news. Sam’s Tavern is one of the worst bars in Seattle and I’m sad to see the owner expanding up to 15th. Must be nice to be a trust fund kid who can run unsuccessful bars and have the Red Robin machine behind you and unlimited capital.

     

  6. I went to Sam’s after it had been open for a month or so. Thought the food was sub-par. Mentioned that to the server and he pointed to a guy at the bar who he identified as the owner, James Snyder. James was was friendly to us and thanked us for coming. I mentioned that our burgers could have used some specific improvments and his response was “This is a bar, not a restaurant.” That was our last visit to Sam’s.

  7. Was hopeful about the “new” Canterbury until I read this. I guess when I closed my tab last Thursday, it really was for the very last time. The Canterbury is officially dead, despite the fact that the name will remain the same.

  8. Sheesh, people, give the new place a chance, without all the pre-judgment. Just because Sam’s is not to your liking does not mean the new Canterbury will be the same.

  9. Have to say that the entire gang at Neumos and Moe Bar are very invested in the community’s historical bars and pubs. Although I don’t know James, Mike is a good guy and loves the idea bringing back neighborhood hang out like the Canterbury.

    I’m hopeful and wish them the best of luck. At least they are keeping the name and help to support the family who called this place home for so many years!

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