One of the grandpapas of Capitol Hill’s cafe culture is closing in only three short weeks. The owner and staff of B&O Espresso are telling regulars that the popular cafe will close its doors as 2011 comes to a close after some 35 years in business.
It was three years ago this coming January that an elderly woman yelled “Don’t mess with the B&O!” to a packed house at an early design meeting for the development destined to replace the E Olive Way building that B&O Espresso has called home since 1976.
That development process has nearly fully played out with the decision this month by the city’s Hearing Examiner to deny a last ditch appeal brought by a neighbor who contended that the Department of Development and Planning Director had erred in his decision to approve a project that will further squeeze westerly views from the Hill.
The appeal seemingly never had a chance — “I’m pretty nervous and I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m just totally out of my water,” the representative for the neighbor said in her opening statement of the hearing — but it was a gallant effort against an inevitable outcome. “What would constitute a significant impact to view if not this?” Hearing Examiner Anne Watanabe asked a DPD rep at one point of the proceedings. The rep had no answer. It wasn’t really why the hearing was held. The question was, given the existing system, had the DPD director approved a project that violated Seattle’s municipal code. The decision was upheld.
With the movement on the project, B&O owner Majed Lukatah decided he couldn’t wait any longer after hovering in limbo for years as the development came together. “There are a lot of factors,” manager John Auseth said. “It’s been an on again, off again thing for a long time.” Auseth said there are no solid plans for the last days at B&O yet but that could change as they get the word out. Auseth says when the day comes, he’ll be walking away from a job he’s held for 10 years.
At one point, Lukatah was considering opening a second B&O on Broadway but that plan fell through. Property owner John Stoner has said he hoped B&O would consider being part of the development when it opens after construction. Architects even went so far in some early design work to include the familiar B&O railroad train icons in the retail portion of the layout. A deal for that kind of rebirth is apparently still up in the air but it looks like B&O will close without a plan to bridge the time outside of the building.
The Nicholson Kovalchick designed 1650 E Olive Way project is a 78-unit apartment building with a generous 3,600 square feet of retail and two live-work units on the ground floor with underground parking for 52 vehicles.