Julia’s shifts to theater-first concept on Broadway after considering downtown move

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

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(Image: Le Faux Show)

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.

Julia's Sequence - 1 of 5-ANIMATIONBetd 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.”

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12 thoughts on “Julia’s shifts to theater-first concept on Broadway after considering downtown move

  1. I think it’s great that Julia’s is staying, as their show is indeed an important part of Capitol Hill culture. But let’s get real about the restaurant. The slight increase in the minimum wage, and a heterosexualization of the gay neighborhood had nothing to do with the restaurant not doing well. Let’s face it, the food was good, never great. Julia’s was always the place my friends and I chose if we couldn’t think of some place great on any given evening. The word we used the most for Julia’s food was ‘fine’, as in ‘their breakfast is fine’, ‘dinner wasn’t bad last time we went there’, etc. That’s not exactly a winning formula for doing well. So I Think it’s great that they’re staying and keeping the best part of their business, but the only restaurants that of been hurt by the minimum wage increase are the ones that weren’t great to begin with

    • Hit the nail on the head. There is just too much competition nowadays in the restaurant business. Their food was never great, and with so many amazing places to eat withing a couple of blocks, I could rarely justify eating there. Character and cultural significance alone is just not enough; step up your kitchen game and people will come.

    • I figured the reason they hadn’t been paring down the restaurant is because they had a lot of good will patronage going there. I ate there a couple times and the food was ok at best, but it was really expensive for just OK (and that was like 6+ years ago) without having theater to go with it. I’d always choose The Broadway Grill over Julia’s if there wasn’t a show (damn, I miss Broadway Grill).

      While I hate the idea of them letting go of waitstaff, who were lovely the few times I went for dinner, I can’t help but think that this re-org is a good thing for everybody involved. Especially if the pared down menu ends up tasting much better as a result.

    • You’re right about the food. It’s ‘good’ – not good. Honestly, the food seems like it was shaken out of a frozen food bag and microwaved.

  2. I’ve attended their performances a few times and have always enjoyed them. As a gay man who lives in the neighborhood, I think it’s certainly an important asset for the community. Unfortunately, however, I have found tickets to be too expensive to go more often (for my budget, anyway), and the shows typically dominated by rowdy bachelorette parties. Were it not for these factors I’d probably go more. That said, I’m glad to hear that they are investing in the space and street, and I wish them success.

  3. Is it still open? I looks like a condemned building the way they’ve ‘remodeled’ it – blacked out all the windows, can’t see inside and moved the entrance… I’d really come to enjoy the shows over the years and appreciate how the performers would attract a full house inside and dozens of onlookers outside with the energy. Now it just looks a smaller version of the boarded up Seattle Times building. Who’s great idea was that?

    • I agree. Now, the exterior of the building is quite user-unfriendly, and actually makes it look like the place is closed…..hardly a recipe for attracting passers-by. Prior to the recent remodel, the space itself was the best part of the business, certainly more appealing than the cooking.

      I really doubt a place which is primarily a drag show theater can make it financially. Time will tell.

  4. Their restaurant business has probably been terrible because their food just isn’t very good. Especially at dinner.

  5. Love Julia’s on Broadway. From Utah, always see it when I am in town. Great Show and amazing people work there!

  6. Went there on a Friday for dinner, wasn’t terrible, but the place was definitely filled with lots of obnoxious bridal parties. No thanks!

  7. Not to beat a dead horse,but yes the food is a problem. Acceptable and OK are generous terms to describe what they offer. What bothers me is that the owners have known this for some time and did nothing. I don’t have high hopes for this establishment.