There isn’t a month that goes by that somebody doesn’t ask CHS what is happening with the old Broadway Grill. For six years, the answer has been nothing. That is about to change.
“It definitely will be kicking back into life,” prolific Capitol Hill real estate investor Ron Amundson tells CHS. “Paint, lights, a clean-up. It’s time.”
According to King County records, Amundson purchased the property home to the 1936-built restaurant building for $3.2 million in February.
It has sat empty and in many ways untouched since the last incarnation of the Grill shuttered in April 2013, ending a 22-year run on Broadway.
A decrepit infrastructure and ungodly $15,000/month price tag kept it empty though a few projects gave the space a thought along the way before moving on.
Even with bad pipes and infrastructure challenges, the interest is understandable. The restaurant’s place in Broadway culture and LGBTQ brunch history is monumental starting with its opening in spring of 1991. “The Broadway Grill—later renamed the Grill on Broadway—was a shamelessly proud anchor for Seattle’s gay culture in the 1990s,” the Stranger wrote about the restaurant. “It had a racy menu of grilled chicken with whipped yams, a glass chandelier that looked like Carmen Miranda’s headgear on steroids, and a plastic clientele that looked like Carmen Miranda’s backup dancers on Social Security.”
In its final years, the Grill also suffered through an infamous bout of credit card hacking with a 2010 wave of fraud tied to a breach involving the restaurant’s point of sales system. In 2017, Roman Seleznev, the son of a Russian lawmaker and a prisoner once reportedly dangled in exchange for Edward Snowden, was sentenced to 27 years in the international scheme that included ripping off customers of the Broadway Grill and the Mad Pizza chain, among other local businesses.
Previous ownership of the property confirmed details of the sale with CHS. Lance Bon, manager of the family partnership that owned the property, took a philosophical approach to explaining why the property had stood empty for so long — and why it was now being sold. “Real estate has a lifespan,” he said. “That property is near the end of its life.”
This week, the Grill space is still filled with leftovers from the old restaurant including a table filled with salt and pepper shakers and paper lanterns still hang from the ceiling. The smudged roll-up doors provide a dingy view of the dark interior. A pile of blankets and trash is left in the doorway from the last time someone broke in to sleep. But Capitol Hill Station is bustling just a few blocks away, and the street is busy with pedestrians. Recent years of empty retail spaces seem to be fading into memory. It’s a “seller’s market.” Even Broadway’s old sex “megastore” space is full with a new, “new Broadway” tenant.
Amundson belongs to a generation of independent, smaller scale real estate investment that is still active on Capitol Hill despite the increasing presence of national investors. Much of Amundson’s holdings are dedicated to “buy and hold” and making space for neighborhood businesses. He also has backed development of some of his properties over the years with some plans playing out over years.
With the Broadway Grill, Amundson said he hopes to get the property in shape for a new tenant. “I’m just going to clean it up,” he says, “and see if there’s a restaurant out there that wants it.”
If that won’t pencil out, Amundson said the large, 5,500+ square foot space could be cleaned out, partitioned, and made available to retail.
And, of course, there are longterm opportunities for the buy and hold-minded Amundson. He also owns the property north of Broadway Grill that is currently home to Teriyaki and Wok and Capitol HIll’s only bikini coffee hut, Ladybug Espresso.
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