With reporting by Bryan Cohen
“It’s like seeing a friend after coming back from rehab.” That’s how one Comet Tavern regular described the newly refreshed 10th and Pike bar after stepping inside for a preview before Monday’s planned reopening celebration. Capitol Hill power duo Dave Meinert and Jason Lajeunesse played host to a small group of friends and reporters on Friday to showcase the new space.
“After the Comet Tavern closed last October, we wanted to ensure it didn’t disappear into Seattle’s black hole of gentrification,” said Meinert, always adept at keeping things interesting.
The Comet will officially open its doors on Monday with 45-cent Ed’s Ethel Ale and free pool all day. While it won’t continue its workmanlike grind of nightly shows, the revamped venue will host its first performance April 1:
The Comet Tavern is located in the Pike/Pine corridor at 922 E Pike Street and opens to the public on Monday, March 31. Hours of operation will be Monday through Sunday from 12 p.m. until 2 a.m. with the longest happy hour in Capitol Hill every day from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. During happy hour, pitchers of cheap beer will start at four dollars at 4 p.m., rising one dollar each hour until 9 p.m. Alternative country band Country Lips will play a free show at the Comet Tavern on Tuesday, April 1 at 10:30 p.m.
While the building’s bones and layout remains essentially the same, the legendary dive received upgrades to the bar, bathrooms, and furniture — much of the work was “must do” to keep the venue operating. Others are clearly optimizations for a new era at the Comet. New booths made from salvaged wood fill the space, giving the tavern something of a Linda’s vibe in the main seating area. At the bar, you’ll still find the end stool with Ethel’s ashes sealed inside. “A network of tunnels used to smuggle liquor during Prohibition leading from the Comet’s basement,” was, apparently, not restored. See the academic paper embedded below for more of the building’s history and place in Seattle culture.
The upstairs loft is now open to the public and has been spiffed up and outfitted with Comet photos from grittier days. Pinball machines, a photo booth, and a new pool table were also included in the facelift.
The changes come after a dark period for the Comet as financial issues ended the reign of owner Brian Balodis over the legendary bar. Following the expected bout of hand-wringing over the further death of Capitol Hill, Meinert and Lajeunesse emerged victorious in bidding to take over the space as the building’s longtime owners sought stability for the troubled tavern. The Chao family acquired the building in 1992 for $650,000. CHS has reported in the past on the eventual redevelopment or outright razing of the 1910 building that has been celebrated — and studied as a true community melting pot:
The remodel and change in ownership brings a shift in focus back to what the new owners say are the Comet’s true roots as a place for everybody. Memorabilia and nostalgia both authentic and slightly manufactured fills the space and references to the Ed Comet mascot abound. You’ll need to bring a dollar bill or three in to restart some of the old traditions. Lajeunesse said bands and DJs would still be in the mix, but the Comet’s primary function would be a place to enjoy a cheap beer.
New food options from the Lost Lake menu will be served and on Sundays the bar will hold a “country lunch” including cornbread and chili paired with country tunes. The monthly Hangover Flea Market will also return after bouncing around other nearby venues. Even Mamma Casserole will be back here and there.
The food is also a returnee, of sorts:
Whether you are celebrating or commiserating, it’s important to have snacks available with your favorite drinks. That’s why for the first time since the mid 70s, we’ll have a small menu consisting of classic sandwiches and chips, hot nuts behind the bar, free peanuts for all and an assortment of pickled bar snacks.
As with most projects, Lajeunesse said the buildout took longer and more money than expected. DPD permits list a likely much too modest $20,000 construction budget. After getting the keys in November, Lajeunesse said they were working on the upgrades up until Friday morning.
More work is to come. The Comet’s corner will soon be home to a new parklet space to give people a place to hang outside the bar and neighboring Lost Lake.
The Comet adds another outpost in a Pike/Pine mini-empire for Meinert and Lajeunesse, whose combined holdings include CHS advertiser Lost Lake, Big Mario’s, Barboza, Neumos, Moe Bar and the Capitol Hill Block Party. The duo’s effort to leap onto 15th Ave E was spiked when the Comet opportunity emerged. Increasingly viewed as a leader in the city’s food and drink industry as some push for a small business-friendlier path to a higher minimum wage, Meinert said Pike/Pine domination was never the goal.
“I don’t have a plan,” Meinert said. “I just want to have a beer.”
You can learn more at thecomettavern.com.
Capitol Hill food+drink notes
- Oso Slide Relief
Capitol Hill food and drink venues are rising to the occasion to help recovery efforts following the Oso landslide.
+ Poquitos is using its three-year anniversary celebration to raise funds for the area:
In light of the tragic Oso landslide, we would like to celebrate our 3rd anniversary by asking our friends and fans to assist us in raising money for the Oso/Darrington community. Join us Monday for lunch or dinner and we will donate 50% of the sales to the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation- all funds raised will go directly to the community affected.
+ Meanwhile, E Olive Way’s Pie Bar is also hoping to raise $5,000 for Oso in the month of April:
Pie Bar’s fundraiser for the victims and families of the town of Oso and Darrington is set to kick off Friday, March 28th. The fundraiser will continue throughout the month of April until Pie Bar reaches its goal of raising five thousand dollars for the victims affected by the mudslide. We are taking donations through our walk up window and have set up donation buttons on our Square App for convenience when you check out with the Ipad.
+ Coastal Kitchen is also helping:
Join us at Coastal Kitchen for an Oso Families Fundraiser. Our hearts go out to those families and loved ones who have suffered the heartbreak of loss. We are working with the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation in their efforts to provide relief and support for the many families enduring this crisis. $1 for every oyster purchased will go directly to relief efforts of the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation A thousand oysters equals $1000! (There will be more ways to donate throughout our dinner menu, too!) Wednesday, April 2nd 2014, 5pm to 10pm
If you know of other Capitol Hill efforts to help, let us know in comments so we can spread the word.
- Dave Meinert isn’t the only Capitol Hill food and drink owner making waves over a potential $15/hour minimum wage. Here’s one exchange from the twitter feed of Liberty and owner Andrew Friedman:
- Most widely publicized Capitol Hill food and drink hotspot lately? The Mystery Coke Machine.
- Olivar has announced it is closing at the end of April. Restaurant Marron and its 16-course tasting menus comes next.
- Artusi has a new(ish) chef and a new tasting menu of its own.
- How would you help Broadway cheesecake shop The Confectional? 61 CHS comments and counting.
- In case you missed it, Tom Douglas is finally coming to Capitol Hill.
- Mezcaleria Oaxaca Capitol Hill invited media in for a mezcal and menu tasting. CHS attended — but we did not write this.
- “This is a place for older people” — Seattle Times offers some faint praise for the new Dulces at 19th and Madison.
- Times has more love for the high-pressure insanity in the kitchen at La Bete.
- Dinette is apparently still in search of a new home. In the meantime, the former E Olive Way restaurant will pop-up on Queen Anne this week.
- We appreciate that there is but one step to make this NY Times-featured cocktail from Canon’s Jamie Boudreau — Chocolate Milk
- For sale on Capitol Hill #1:
Profitable Capitol Hill Bistro on Broadway – $350000
Prime Capitol Hill location on Broadway, the central commercial street, lively with shops, coffee houses, restaurants and bars. A community of diverse businesses and people, this area is brimming with activity from early morning until late at night. Within a few blocks from Seattle Central Community college, this neighborhood attracts both students and working professionals. The Capitol Hill extension of the Seattle Streetcar will run directly in front of the restaurant and will continue to bring even more activity to the neighborhood.
- For sale on Capitol Hill #2:
Capitol Hill Bar / Restaurant / Coffee Shop Opportunity – $126000 (Pike/Pine Triangle)
Unique restaurant / coffee shop opportunity in Capitol Hill’s popular Pike/Pine Triangle. This area is known as one of Seattle’s most exciting urban neighborhood communities. The character of its historic buildings, new design-savvy living spaces, arts facilities, and a collection of boutique shops and restaurants have only enhanced the vibrant neighborhood, which continues to embrace and cater to all walks of life (www.pikepinetriangle.com).As usual, remember we’re talking about somebody’s hopes and dreams here so be nice. Except for the Pike/Pine Triangle thing. You can do what you like with that.
|This week’s CHS food+drink advertiser directory|