Over the past few months, the owners of Julia’s on Broadway spent hours discussing what Julia’s could gain — or lose — by leaving Capitol Hill.
The “queen of the brunch drag show” opened just 14 years ago at the corner of Broadway and E Thomas, but the neighborhood that inspired the bar / restaurant / performance space rapidly changed.
So much so that owners Karsten Betd and Eladio Preciado began to think if Julia’s was going to continue to draw a straighter, out-of-town crowd, why not go all in and move downtown?
“With the gay area not being here like it was back in the day, Julia’s changed to a majority of business (being) straight people,” said recently hired manager Michael Sullivan.
Ultimately, the owners decided to stay and invest their resources into remodeling their Broadway space. Now, Betd said he wants to focus on drawing those downtown tourists up the Hill for Julia’s shows.
With seven more years on the lease, work is now underway to significantly expand the performance space to make Julia’s a true dinner-theater business akin to The Triple Door. In the coming weeks, the distinctive neon Julia’s sign will be moved to make way for a “Le Faux Theater” sign — the name of Julia’s flagship show that features musical impersonators.
A new burlesque show will start up this spring and an additional Le Faux show will be added on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Of course, the Sunday drag brunch will continue. The hope, Sullivan said, is to elevate Julia’s into something closer to a neighborhood icon — a place to experience the more gay, more transgressive side of Capitol Hill.
While Betd said the performance side of the business has grown substantially, the restaurant side has suffered in recent years. In response, the restaurant-only space will be reduced significantly and the menu will be pared down.
Betd said Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law was also factor in his decision to pull back on the restaurant side of the business. While he said he supports paying living wages, he had to lay off a sizable portion of his waitstaff to keep the business open.
“That’s the truth, no one wants to hear it,” he said. “As the minimum wage goes higher and we get less support in the restaurant, I’ll close the restaurant more.”
A lawsuit also looms against the business. A woman who claims to have broken her foot after tripping on Julia’s outdoor patio fence filed a lawsuit last year seeking an undisclosed amount of money.
But with seven years on their lease and a major investment in the space, Sullivan said Julia’s will march on to carry the banner of Capitol Hill’s old guard.
“The thing that really excites me the most about staying here is that we have a big interest in getting back into the community,” Sullivan said. “We want to make Julia’s the longstanding bar on Broadway that it should be.”