Bauhaus closes Capitol Hill cafe, says won’t be returning to Melrose and Pine

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Bauhaus's final night at Melrose and Pine -- Last night for Bauhaus at Melrose and Pine — not the last night on Capitol Hill, we said at the time

Bauhaus’s final night in its original location — Last night for Bauhaus at Melrose and Pine — not the last night on Capitol Hill, we said at the time

Just two years after reopening in what was intended to be its temporary home while an eight-story development rises above its longtime corner at Melrose and Pine, Bauhaus Books and Coffee is leaving Capitol Hill.

CHS confirmed the Capitol Hill closure with owner Joel Radin Tuesday. Many loyal customers on the rainy night had already seen the sad news for themselves posted on an 8.5×11 sheet of paper in the window of the E Pine cafe. The same message was also posted to Facebook:

Dear loyal Bauhaus Capitol Hill Customers,

We are truly sorry to let you know that the Capitol Hill Bauhaus had to close it’s doors. The plan was for this space to be our temporary home until the original space was to be ready for us to move back. Unfortunately, we are not able to move back to our original location.

We really tried our best to make this space work as Bauhaus Capitol Hill’s temporary home, but due to unforeseen events and the knowledge that we are not able to move back to our original home, we are forced to close our doors.

We are extremely sad and sorry this is the situation. Bauhaus has been a Capitol Hill staple since 1993 and will live on in spirit. The Capitol Hill community was our first family and we thank you and will miss you all.

Radin declined to provide more information at this time.

Known for its “strong coffee” and book-lined walls, Bauhaus was loved for its library-like feel, plentiful tables, and long hours — 6 AM to 1 AM. The new space didn’t have the same ambiance as the Melrose corner but it did have the Capitol Club’s old second-story patio.

Bauhaus and its block of neighboring small businesses on E Pine at Melrose were part of one of the first in a wave of nostalgia demolishing real estate deals that ushered in the past few years of construction on relatively massive mixed-use developments boosted taller by Pike/Pine’s preservation incentives. In April 2012, CHS reported on the acquisition of Bauhaus’s block that would displace the 1993-born cafe and other shops like Wall of Sound, Edie’s Shoes and Le Frock.

The old days (Images: CHS)

The old days (Images: CHS)

But by May of that year, the pain of the impending doom for the old buildings on the block was partly mitigated by an announcement from Radin that Bauhaus had a deal in place to return to Melrose and Pine once the development was completed. “It looks like Bauhaus will be back,” Radin told CHS at the time. “The building is going to look the same when it’s all said in done.”

Bauhaus fans were even happier when Radin announced he would be taking over the old Capitol Club space on E Pine for a temporary home for Bauhaus while the development construction was underway. The transplanted Bauhaus opened in early 2014. New Bauhaus locations also opened in Ballard and Green Lake. We don’t know the fate of the other cafes but no messages about any additional closures were posted to their recently updated Facebook pages.

The eight-story project at Melrose and Pine remains under construction. Designed by architect David Hewitt and developed by the Madison Development Group, the project will create around 180 apartment units above16,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space and underground parking for around 170 vehicles. Attempts to protect both the Melrose Building and the Pinevue Apartments with landmarks status failed. Despite the rejection of the block’s architectural significance, the developers have branded the Excelsior project after the Melrose Building’s first tenantExcelsior Motorcycle and Bicycle Company.

(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

Screen-shot-2013-05-14-at-12.36.37-PM

UPDATE 12/9/2015 9:45 AM: The most recent listings for the Excelsior show a whopping 10 commercial spaces for lease in the development ranging from $36 to $42 per square foot, per year. Looks like they won’t make their “date available” target of October 2015.Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 9.47.41 AM

Space C1 looks familiar:Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 9.47.32 AM

Meanwhile, we also looked into court records around the business including some small tax warrants earlier this year. There is one piece of pending litigation involving Bauhaus’s ownership. In November of 2012, a NW Market pedestrian claimed he was injured by “a large hole” that was part of the construction around the buildout of the Ballard Bauhaus location. A lawsuit filed this November calls for a judgement against Bauhaus and the building owner for “pain, suffering, and mental anguish” and “permanent impairment.”

According to county records, the same real estate investors have owned the Capitol Club building since 1986 and there are no permit records indicating any immediate plans for development.

We’re checking for more details on what changed with the Melrose and Pine project and the abrupt nature of the cafe’s closure. For Capitol Hill oldtimers displaced by development, successful returns are rare but not unheard of. Bill’s Off Broadway returned to Harvard and Pine this summer after waiting for a preservation-friendly development with a revamped restaurant space to complete construction. Meanwhile, the Bauhaus news comes in a week when another Capitol Hill food and drink legend gets back in business as Charlie’s is set to reopen on Broadway under new management.

You can check out some old(er) photos and see a CHS history of the original Bauhaus here.

UPDATE 12/10/15 9:15 AM: “PLEASE COME BACK WE NEED YOU”

A photo posted by andy (@swizzer_hands) on

UPDATE 12/10/2015 3:30 PM: We haven’t confirmed it with Radin but Twice Sold Tales Ballard — which shares a space with Bauhaus up north — says that location is closing this weekend. The Seattle Times reports the Green Lake location has also closed.

Radin has not responded to CHS’s attempts to contact him following our brief exchange Tuesday.

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64 thoughts on “Bauhaus closes Capitol Hill cafe, says won’t be returning to Melrose and Pine

  1. Switcheroo by the Bellevue developer of this project? Offer to return but only under “market” rents that only a bougie expensive restaurant could actually afford?

    Dollars to donuts, the developer expected Bauhaus to pay top dollar and the TI costs for their “new” old space was something that just didn’t pencil for a coffee shop.

  2. Bauhaus was one of the finest places and spaces in Seattle, inside and out. I spent countless days/hours there over the years. Gazing out from the inside up in the loft was one of my favorite things to do. The turning leaves in the fall, the skyline, the Space Needle (the view of which is probably blocked now), the passersby, the random musical choices over the speakers, the grinding of beans, the constant whirring and tapping of the espresso machine. The cereal boxes. The books and fliers and beautiful ironwork. Those fabulous, yet uncomfortable outdoor chairs. The people! I was priced out of the Hill (rent doubled) last year and would rarely have been able to enjoy it anymore had it reopened (living waaaaay across town), but I still think of it as a highlight of my time on the Hill. It was a home away from home. I imagine a lovely, pricey restaurant will take its place. No matter how wonderful, it will never replace the “third place” that was Bauhaus.

    • I always saw people hanging out at Bauhaus, using it as a true ‘Third Place’ (home is first place, work/school are ‘second place’) that urbanists love having in their community.

      The true problem arises when these ”Third Places need to turn a profit. A full cafe of aspiring writers, readers, et al buy their cup of coffee and then set up shop for 2-+ hours, has the proprietor been able to turn a profit?

  3. I have many fond memories of Bauhaus; it’s one of the places I felt at home even before I moved to Capitol Hill.

    At the beginning of this saga, Robert Ketcherside wrote in a piece here on CHS:

    “I’d love to sit in Bauhaus and look out the window on a horde of pedestrians where the parking lot next to Pho Tai “used to be”. It would certainly beat sitting in a car next to Pho Tai staring at another ugly apartment box with a drug store or liquor store in the bottom, where Bauhaus “used to be”.”

    http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2012/04/chs-retake-why-capitol-hills-bauhaus-block-matters/comment-page-1/

    It was this quote that encouraged me to start attending and commenting at Design Review Board Meetings. (It helps too that jseattle posts when they will be.)

  4. Talk to the ex-employees, the ones who transferred over from the old location and were eventually all fired or quit. The owner ran that place into the ground and didn’t give a shit about it. As much as I’d love to blame this on heartless developers, this problem was from within. Bauhaus died when it left its original location.

  5. There are so many little reasons to visit Capitol Hill anymore, at least for myself and my friends. I hope for the next generation and the next and next there are fun and memorable places like Bauhaus and others instead of just another chain box.

  6. I think there is probably more to this story than an “evil developer” changing his/her mind about renting to Bauhaus. Equally possible is that the Bauhaus owner decided to pull out of the deal. If he was really committed to moving back to the original location, wouldn’t he had made sure that a contract was in place guaranteeing him to do that? And that the contract specified a rent that he could afford?

    • Agreed. And if the “original” space didn’t end up panning out, why not continue in the temporary space and find another home. I don’t believe we have a shortage of available retail storefronts.

  7. You would think extreme liberal leadership would have done more to preserve these neighborhoods. But apparently kowtowing to developers isn’t a bad thing according to Murray and the SCC.

    • I can say with certainty that the old Bauhaus space would still be functioning on Melrose along with countless other businesses that made Capitol Hill what it was before Amazon decided to plague the city with it’s new mega campus. Amazon is the root of the problem. Speculating developers and high rents are all just symptoms of that problem.

    • We had plenty of jobs before AMZN in SLU. We had a more middle-class friendly economy, with plenty of tech downtown, but not a dominant force of one kind of economy like now. We went from artist and student and working class possible neighborhood, to upscale only need apply.

      So check your privilege, techbro noob.

  8. People can blame property developers or Amazon bros all they want, but the new/temp Bauhaus location was a shell of its former self. The old location was five times the size and you regularly had to wait in a line out the door and sometimes had trouble finding a table.

    This new location was never crowded. The baristas made shitty tips. Complain about the death of Capitol Hill all you want, but you weren’t spending money here. Maybe people were all waiting for it to return to its cool original spot, but they weren’t buying coffee at this one.

    As was mentioned before, all of the original staff was gone. I heard rumors that the original manager, or at least someone who effectively ran the place, was fired and never replaced with anyone capable. Things started to fall apart, traffic never picked up, and all of the old school staff left for greener pastures. A few of them wound up at Cafe Pettirosso, which has more of a Bauhaus vibe than this new one ever had.

    • The manager of 17 years was fired for no reason… But it wasn’t the management, it was the owner and the insane amount of debt he is in from poorly managing all of his businesses. Gentrification is not to blame for this death, a reckless owner is.

    • No… it is. The poorly run business may have lasted many, many years in the old location. It couldn’t survive the changes that gentrification brought.

      The thing is that places like Bauhaus were the reason that the allowed gentrification to happen. I’m sure the new Wallgreens that will go into the old Bauhaus space will do just fine. The neighborhood won’t though.

    • In one week the owner shuttered Bauhaus Capitol Hill, Bauhaus Ballard, Bauhaus Green Lake, and Zayda Buddy’s restaurant. Still think it was one company, in one neighborhood, that did him in?

  9. Well, $36 to $42 is a steep SF rate, and add to that triple-net (NNN) and, well, you have a developer’s advertisement for we want national, screw local attitude. At least that’s what it sounds like, looks like.

  10. The owner has hurt all of the employees that have worked for him. Including the managers of 17 years he fired on the spot. Never paid his other managers their last paychecks, owes all his vendors money, the contractors, and the employess that he just let go without warning 3 weeks before Christmas. He has lied, stole and deserves all that he has coming to him. Whoever feels bad for this man has no soul.

  11. I was a regular at Bauhaus at both of its Capitol Hill locations. I am very sad to see it go. (As for the reasons for its demise, I can only speculate–like the other comment-makers here.) As a Capitol Hill resident and coffee drinker, my immediate task is to find a decent replacement. Question: What other coffee houses on Capitol Hill stay open past 10 PM?????

  12. For what it’s worth, I heard the Green Lake location is closing or is already closed. All of Bauhaus is going away, people. The Ballard location was doing okay, but it wasn’t enough to support all three locations.

  13. What we know of the reason is nothing. And the owner has remained silent and has closed other locations. It is totally irresponsible for commenters to look beyond the owner to some far flung conspiracy theory. He is free to speak or to remain silent. But if other commenters are being truthful, the owner was either evil, or not competent to run multiple locations, was not meeting his obligations, and folded while owing many people money. Please accept the likelihood that this has nothing to do with Amazon or any other new presence in town. People screw up and this sure sounds like such a case.

    • Ya know…..I think that the most likely explanation is that after the original location closed and the cafe turned into a chain, it had lost something that it could never replace. The clientele started decreasing as many of the old time regs started going elsewhere. Its original location and decorum was so strategic and so unique which is what allowed it to endure for 20 years and not even the great recession could slow it down.

  14. boom town economy. it’s sad to see it go, as it really one of the nicer places to grab coffee in the area. too much competition i guess, and the community has changed a lot in the past 10 years. ah well, on to bigger and better things, as they say.

  15. Seattle sucks nowadays. Gentrification killed it. Too many uppity Californians up here now making everything uber expensive and uber boring.

    • Tell me one way that is an update from Eater?!? They refer to CHS coverage throughout plus this brief from Seattle Times about the Green Lake and Ballard closures. Original sources, people :)

  16. Yet no one mentioned that the Starbucks Roastery (whatever they call the big starbucks) came into existence during the construction phase. That may have led to a lot of poor business for the Capitol Hill location.

    • yes, because the loyal bauhaus customer is easily wooed by shiny, new, corporate coffee shops. hell, if not for starbucks, bauhaus would have existed for all eternity!

  17. The Bauhaus cafe was NEVER the same after its original Melrose location closed down in October 2013. The temporary home was a nice respite but I recently heard that Miss was fired and all the old Baristas(Jasmine, Grace, Jane, and the others) walked out within the last 12 months. And today I was told that Joel Radin is liquidating the entire franchise……Folks, it *had* to happen! All good things come to an end. I mean, once they started opening up multiple locations and turning the once legendary, unique Cafe into a chain I had my doubts about its long term viability. So this really isn’t much of a shock. Capitol Hill is losing pieces of its former hipness every year. Time to find a new place.

  18. I know i’m in the minority but i stopped going around broadway period. I guess i’m getting old but dealing with all the attitudes of the young bratty kids was getting harder and harder. Some kid tried to start a fight with me a couple years ago and I just thought I’d start avoiding trouble. The occupiers had their little run on the hill, maybe they’re still there but I got better things to do than have to listen, see and smell a bunch of dirty white kids pretending to have it so hard. Bauhaus was always ok in and of itself though.