Yes, it’s the place with the $66 ribeye — “butchered in house, sold by weight, served á la carte, with your choice of butter–nori bonito, brown butter and preserved lemon, bone marrow, or anchovy” — leading the way in changing how Capitol Hill’s restaurants compensate their employees.
This week, Renee Erickson’s full E Union triumvirate is open for business on the backside of Pike/Pine. Bar Melusine, Bateau, and General Porpoise Coffee and Doughnuts are beautiful. They are also pioneering a new way to compensate employees after Erickson’s fleet of Seattle restaurants including Walrus and the Carpenter, Barnacle, and the Whale Wins raised wages to $15 an hour and replaced traditional tipping with a service charge. The move has made Erickson and her partners in the Sea Creatures restaurant company popular lunch companions as others prepare to make big changes in the way they do business in Seattle.
“We’ve been meeting with people about how to handle service charges,” Erickson business partner Jeremy Price tells CHS. “I expect in January when the wage goes to $12 we’ll see more.”
In 2016, even small business with fewer than 500 employees will need to raise the minimum to $12 if they don’t provide medical benefits and/or employees don’t receive at least $1.50/hour in tips. It’s going to be a busy few weeks before the new year for many players in Capitol Hill food and drink.
The service charge at Bar Melusine, Bateau, and General Porpoise comes in at 20%. “100% of this charge is paid to employees,” the menus explain. “55% of this charge is paid to employees ‘directly serving the customer.'” And, if you’d like to leave a tip, you still can, of course. Bring cash.
Another group of restaurants with a Capitol Hill base is also beginning to implement innovative health benefits. Poquitos and Rhein Haus employees who have been with the company for at least 12 consecutive months will be eligible for a new paid parental leave policy in the event of a birth or adoption:
Employees will be eligible to receive 100% of their current salary for up to six weeks of paid leave. Salaries for tipped employees will be calculated based on their hourly wage plus 75% of their average reported tips over the past three months. The restaurant will also offer six weeks of leave to secondary caregivers, offering the same benefit as the primary caregiver for the first three weeks and 70% of wages for the remaining three weeks. In recognition of the variety of parental arrangements that occur, the distinction of primary vs. secondary caregiver is self-reported by the staff member.
The new benefits are being made available to 83 full-time and 69 part-time employees.
Another model is being deployed on the north end of Broadway where restaurant veteran Jerry Traunfeld is running his new Sichuan-flavored restaurant Lionhead with no tips — and no service charge. “Our menu pricing allows us to pay an equitable wage to all our employees. You pay only what you see (plus tax),” Traunfeld told Seattle Met.
Meanwhile at Sea Creatures, Erickson, Price, and partner Chad Dale aren’t only pioneering on employee compensation — the new trio of venues are part of a new frontier for Pike/Pine food and drink spreading into the streets south of the E Pike core. While Lark lead the way opening its new, multi-concept home inside the Central Agency building last year. Bar Melusine, Bateau, and General Porpoise now stand at the center of the millions of dollars of investment underway on the street.
Across E Union, part bike shop, part training facility, part cafe Metier Racing and Coffee is set to open while next door the old Auto Battery and Po Dog are being transformed into Portland import Sizzle Pie. Sushi restaurant Gokan by Musashi opened on the street this summer while General Porpoise neighbor Soi opened as the 19th Thai restaurant in Central Seattle by our count. One of the biggest investments will soon follow — they’re already brewing at E Union and Broadway’s “a brewery, not a brewpub” Optimism Brewing but not quite ready to serve. Add a giant new child care center around the corner and a few more ambitious food+drink neighbors and Pike/Pine’s transformation from cheap drinks and giant burritos to craft cocktails, oyster happy hours, and big ass steak dinners is complete.
The new Erickson projects also demonstrate how business owners are trying to best, most efficiently utilize the massive commercial spaces being created in Capitol Hill’s development wave. Erickson’s creations take up a combined 4,500 square feet in the Broadstone Infinity development that infamously inspired a re-working of the development incentives included in the Pike/Pine Conservation District. The Ankrom Moisan-designed project climbs to seven stories in the two main portions of the new buildings above the facades of the former Davis Hoffman building and the old headquarters of Madison Park Greetings.
Frequent Sea Creatures collaborator Heliotrope Architects designed the triplet food and drink components. They connect together along E Union on the southern side of the building at 11th Ave. Bar Melusine is an icy bright and glistening raw bar, while Bateau is a Francophilic steak restaurant with a view of giant cow carcasses hung from orange meat hooks. General Porpoise is a filled-doughnut cafe with a hot pink espresso machine. All are, as you would expect, gorgeous. Even the dead cow window.
“Years ago I had a delicious filled doughnut at St. JOHN in London and I’ve since been obsessed,” exclaims Erickson…
- 7 AM to 3 PM, Daily
- 4 roasters’ beans are on deck–De Lâ Paz out of San Francisco, Dapper & Wise from Portland, Heart from Portland, and Toby’s Estate from Brooklyn.
- 4-6 Doughnut flavors will be offered daily. The starting line-up includes vanilla bean custard, chocolate marshmallow, peanut butter and grape jelly, apple jam, and lemon curd.
- The treats are $3.50 a pop — you can get 18 of them for the price of the ribeye.
- “Sparkling wine will also be available, of course.”
- Pastry Chef Clare Gordon / GM Jeff Butler
Named for the mythical French water spirit, Bar Melusine will be focused on the flavors of Normandy and Brittany…
- After 10 or so services, Bar Melusine is now ready for its oyster happy hour: Monday to Thursday, 4-6PM. $2 off all cocktails, $4 vermouth cocktails, $1 off beer, $1 off wine by the glass, and $1 off oysters.
- Open Monday to Saturday, 4 PM to 10 PM
- Chef Jay Guerrero / GM Yuriko Say / Bar Manager Jermaine Whitehead
In-house butchered and dry aged beef, grass fed and long finished from Sea Creatures’ La Ferme des Anes, will anchor Bateau…
- Is now accepting reservations via phone or via OpenTable.com.
- Open Monday to Saturday, 5:30 to 10PM.
- “Cuts of the day are advertised in-house only”
- Chef Taylor Thornhill / GM Jamie Irene / Bar Manager Jermaine Whitehead