E Pike Caffe Vita’s upstairs — one of the Hill’s best coffee hangouts — now ’employees only’

Upstairs at Cafe Vita

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

Late in 2015, Capitol Hill lost one of its best places for hanging out, having coffee, and getting some work done. We’re not talking about the Bauhaus closure.

Visitors to the E Pike Caffe Vita will now find a sign informing them that the upstairs area of the classic Capitol Hill cafe is “employees only.” A cafe worker not authorized to speak with the media said the space is now used for Caffe Vita’s growing office needs.

In 2015, Vita marked 20 years of business in Seattle… and beyond. We wrote here about the roots of the E Pike coffee hangout starting with Cafe Paradiso. In 2014, the old space got a good scrub and new floors.

For customers, the closure of the upstairs space and its catbird seat view of E Pike has been partly offset by moving more tables into a first floor space crowded with Seattle U and Seattle Central students, and laptop jockeys sucking down some caffeine and bandwidth. We’ve asked Vita for information about the change but don’t expect to find more to the story than a space crunch — and the loss of one of CHS’s favorite places to work.

UPDATE: A representative from Caffe Vita said she would get back to CHS — we asked for more information about the closure and if there was any chance the upstairs would be reopened to customers in the future.

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

29 thoughts on “E Pike Caffe Vita’s upstairs — one of the Hill’s best coffee hangouts — now ’employees only’

  1. “growing office needs.” What a joke. In the last year, they’ve either fired or laid off over half of their staff.

  2. Man, is there any good news in this vein to report? Seems like all the nice spots (even the ones that face the shady north) are rapidly disappearing. Unlesss you wanna pay the big bucks to sit in a daylit spot in a higher end restaurant, you are SOL.. Adios, capitol hill.

  3. The boyfriend and I went over the weekend to do some reading. I hadn’t been in quite some time. The downstairs was loud and incredibly cramped. Overall, highly unpleasant. Love Caffe Vita’s coffee but bummer about the space- guess we’ll have to hit up Ladro or Victrola instead from now on.

  4. This is a bummer, I remember many nights spent getting work done there during grad school. Oh well, I prefer the coffee and ambiance at Broadcast on Bellevue anyway.

  5. Well, that sucks. The only times I’d ever go to Vita was to meet upstairs with friends on creative projects. It’s a great space for collaborative work. Their coffee certainly isn’t anything to write home about, and you can get it pretty much anywhere else in the city now anyway.

    I guess I’ll just have to make do at Vivace, whose coffee is way better anyway.

  6. This is bad news. I really enjoyed this quiet space to enjoy a cup of coffee and read. The downstairs is mostly too cramped and frequently too drafty to be pleasant.

    Knowing that I won’t be able to enjoy my drink there, I can’t imagine a reason to go back.

    • Agreed. The upstairs was one of the nicest places on the Hill — actually, in Seattle — to sit/read/work/have a quiet conversation with friends or a meeting. It was hard to beat watching over the activity on Pike, rain or shine. The downstairs is a cacophony, and now will only be even more overcrowded.

      If Vita can find alternative office space, that would be awesome for its customers.

      In the meantime, I’ll need to venture elsewhere to enjoy a cup of tea in the fellowship of strangers.

  7. Man, it just gets worse and more ridiculous. The lack of appreciation for humaneness, lack of generosity, and unmistakable sense of entitlement is killing this city.

    Vita is saying Eff you; go to Starbucks, and I’m like, Okay. Jerks.

    • That’s rich. ‘sense of entitlement’. As in expecting a business to keep things exactly how you like it & throwing a fit if they don’t?

      • Far be it for me to take business advice from someone who can’t even manage to spell “business” correctly, but blindly keeping things exactly how customers like it isn’t how you stay in business. Making sure you have enough money to stay solvent is how you stay in business. Keeping the space open isn’t zero-cost. Employees need to clean and maintain it and Seattle collects a retail square footage tax, for example.

        But, I wasn’t commenting on whether this makes business sense for Vita or not. I was making a comment on OP’s accusations of ‘sense of entitlement’ when her post absolutely reeked of entitlement.

        Closing a seating area at a coffee shop is not a “lack of appreciation for humaneness” whatever the hell that means.

  8. Nothing to see here. It was near impossible to get a table with an outlet up there anyway. Vivace and Starbucks have way more seats and way more outlets. I had given up on going there to get any work done a long time ago.

  9. I quit going to most cafes on the hill when drones staring at laptops for hours on end started to fill them up all the while thinking that they are in their own personal offices.

    • Coffee shops in Seattle have been a place to take your laptop since at least 2000, so if you haven’t been to one in fifteen years, okay, but then why do you care about Caffe Vita?

  10. I’m still not over losing Vivace’s leafy outlook over Cal Anderson park or the demise of Bauhaus’s cool Space Needle view. Now I just take my coffee home and gaze at the construction of a sixty-six room congregate housing project happening ten feet from my dining room table and hope for at least some good people watching once everyone moves in. #progress?

  11. YES, I have visited the upper cafe…. and yes some days there would be a full house! A full house of “people”minus a Caffe Vita cup at their precious table. A whole lot of people hanging out taking up valuable seats from actual paying customers who by the way do appreciate Caffe Vita coffee.

    Amazing! The amount of people in this thread who state they use the space to “hangout” and admit they do not like or appreciate the coffee that Caffe Vita produces. But oh no- my precious seat is no longer available for me to……..let’s say it…..Oh no I can’t loiter anymore!

    How about we start a new meet space….let’s say your doorstep, lawn or backyard? I just need a place to hangout for endless hours. Oops..I almost forgot I will need your wifi password so I can illegally download movies.

  12. time will tell.
    when the seats are full, the day is done.
    taking away40 chairs makes a huge difference in your ability to seat customers. people will go elsewhere.

  13. It’s said that a neighborhood forum has become such a negative conversation. Caffe Vita is part of the fabric of the Pike/Pine corridor. The employees who work here are always awesome and make great coffee. They reflect the diversity of our neighborhood and really have kept this Seattle institution consistent and cool. With rising rents and Vivace Roasters headed of the hill and the closure of Bauhaus… You’d think our neighborhood would rally behind business that is doing what they can to keep roots in one of the most expensive areas in the city. What other coffee shops can you go in on the hill and see your product being roasted, packaged and served? Even if upstairs had stayed active, you still can’t get a place to sit when the majority of patrons spend hours on computers, conduct business meetings and worst of all take up a whole four top to spread out and do homework while sipping a 3 buck coffee beverage…for hours.

  14. It’s tough to loose small gems like the upstairs at vita in an ever growing ever changing neighborhood. I get that. However, from what I know it was an Egress Issue that city ordinance imposed that forced the change. I also know that it was a critical move to keeping its office, and coffee roaster on capitol hill, where it has had a home for 20+ years.

    Vita employs over 350 people in the area, has a very robust annual donations program and is one of the only locally owned coffee roasters and chain of cafe’s of its size. Stumptown is a multinational corporation at this point, as is Starbucks, obviously.

    Give em a break.

  15. I am part of the Caffe Vita family, the amount of energy, passion and vision that Mike & Liz McConnell have contributed to the Capitol Hill neighborhood is beyond reproach.

    Caffe Vita has set a standard of community service with countless contributions to “local” charitable organizations, farm-direct relationships across the planet, as well as employing hundreds of people should be respected and acknowledged.

    Our Capitol Hill location is our national headquarters and home. Rather than move our offices offsite we decided to stay home.

    Scott Carsberg
    Caffe Vita Coffee Roasting Co.

    • So nice to “hear” your voice unexpectedly in this thread! I miss Bisato and Lampreia so much — your thoroughly unique and delightful cuisine.