Why is Capitol Hill’s The Saint closing its kitchen? More fun, better business

(Image: The Saint)

CHS isn’t the only Capitol Hill business taking some time mid-2017 for an overhaul of its craft and a boost of new creative energy.

Who knows about the blog but we’re pretty sure the changes at The Saint bear watching.

“We can put the same amount of energy into other things and have a lot more fun,” Quentin Ertel tells us about his reinvention of the nine-year-old E Olive Way nightspot. The little blue wedge of E Olive Way will be closed into October for a light remodel and a big shift in its business model.

More tequilas and mezcales. No tacos. The Saint is going full bar, no restaurant. It closed last week for its own short hiatus.

“We’re busier than ever,” Ertel said about the months leading up to his decision to drop food and focus solely on The Saint’s booze business. “It’s really hard to get a full crew of talented cooks right now.”

It’s a talking point likely to be abused by Fox News and KIRO talk radio but the phase-in process for Seattle’s march to a $15 minimum wage has created a peculiar kind of short-term advantage for the larger restaurants and chains required to provide a higher wage on the way to 2025 parity: They pay more.

Ertel said it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep The Saint’s kitchen staffed with talented workers regularly leaving for higher paying jobs. “We were paying on the level of big companies. And we’re basically a taco shack.”

Ertel’s move comes counter to the conventional wisdom of the Capitol Hill nightlife economy where the momentum of experience, time, and money can carry owners from the bar scene into significant investments in creating full-fledged dining experiences. It’s a challenging learning curve. Take the travails of nightlife entrepreneur Jason Lajeunesse’s heavy investment in the former Kingfish Cafe space on 19th Ave E as the latest example. Ertel nearly made a similar investment, by the way, in the space now home to Trove.

For Ertel who also owns Pike/Pine’s Havana nightclub, the change at The Saint is a personal challenge to reinvent his business and to get back to the tequila and mezcal roots of why he started in the first place.

It also might be a good example for any other Capitol Hill business currently sorting out its future.

“Food is a noble pursuit and I love to eat out,” Ertel said. “It’s getting more and more expensive to do it right. If you can’t do it right, why bother.”

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One thought on “Why is Capitol Hill’s The Saint closing its kitchen? More fun, better business

  1. I thought by WSLCB rules, a cocktail lounge had to serve food & have some sort of kitchen to be able to serve spirits in addition to beer and wine. Did that rule change?