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B&O Espresso on E Olive Way: 1976-2012

The track to get here has been long and winding. After 36 years, B&O Espresso has finally reached its end on E Olive Way.

“He has his money to do his project,” manager John Auseth tells CHS about word received last week that the mixed-use development in the works for the last four years that will replace the 1924-built building is finally in motion.

Images of past, present from a failed landmark nomination (Images: Nicholson Kovalchick)

Developer John Stoner purchased the property for $2.3 million in 2008 and began the process to create a six-story, 78-unit building with 3,600 square feet of retail and two live-work units at ground floor and underground parking for 52 vehicles on the parcel. Initial community reaction was not supportive and the design by architects Nicholson Kovalchick was widely panned even as the project moved through review and was ultimately approved. An effort to landmark the building was rejected. An appeal against the development’s land use approval was tossed out. Meanwhile, the developer set about securing financing for the Capitol Hill apartment project. Stoner also made overtures — private and public including adding renderings of a possible future shop in the retail portion of the development to the design proposals — to keep B&O at 1650 E Olive Way once the new building was constructed.

In December 2011, CHS reported that B&O was preparing to shutter after the Department of Planning and Development approval of the project was upheld by the Hearing Examiner. Four days later, owner Majed Lukatah announced a change of heart and that the cafe was prepared to stick around until the project was ready for its construction phase.

Turns out, the reprieve lasted almost exactly one year. Auseth tells CHS the last day of business at B&O on E Olive Way is planned for December 9th. There is some possibility, he says, of a new location in the city — possibly Ballard. That move would put B&O in good company. Earlier this year, CHS reported that Bauhaus — another cafe preparing to be displaced by an enormous mixed-use project — is opening a Ballard location.

Auseth says the plan for the final days isn’t all worked out yet but there will likely be something momentous in the mix given a history dating all the way back to 1976.

“There’s always the possibility that the owners will come back to this space,” he adds.

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34 thoughts on “B&O Espresso on E Olive Way: 1976-2012

  1. It is a shame to see a wonderful Capitol Hill business, which gave real character to the neighborhood, be demolished. Nicholson Kovalchik apparently did the nomination, so that they could argue that the building could be raised. It probably was not “landmarkable,” but the replacement still does not look particularly worthy of the neighborhood. I live down the street and dislike all this intensely.

  2. One of the first places I went to when I moved to Seattle oh so long ago. Such a lovely space, ditto for Bauhaus. Even if they can move back they will have low ceilings and be in another generic, bland building. Ballard’s gain.

  3. To whowever wrote the “bad neighbors ” thing: I have to laugh! In the the Sixties and Seventies the location was the Belmont Tavern, a place that would make the little coffee and sweets place that replaced it seem like a church. The Belmont was a neighborhood bar that catered to old low bottom drunks and rowdy creative alternative types of the kind that gave Capitol Hill it’s reputation in that era. Frankly, I always thought the B&O was a little too staid in comparison. With the type of expensive buildings that are now replacing everything on Capitl Hill, any traces of bohemianism will totally disappear in another 10 years. Congrats to the urban yuppies for ruining another neighborhood.

  4. I will be sad to see B&O go. I remember meeting friends in the back room when it was the smoking section; meeting first dates; having morning after breakfasts with new significant others. I will miss the lemony lentil soup and the warm, cozy ambiance.

    I understand the need for urban density, but it’s a mixed blessing when it forces an end to special places.

  5. B&O has been a favorite since I moved to Seattle in 1978. Many thanks to everyone who has worked there, and Majed for a great place to go for brunch, a quiet afternoon, late dinner, fabulous desserts, great espresso long before it became the ubiquitous daily chug, lots of laughs and good fun with family and friends. Very best wishes to all of you.

    Not thrilled about the behemoth planned for the space.

  6. You seem to be confused. Urban yuppies like old buildings. Otherwise they’d live in the modern burbs. Blame developers for uninspired construction, not urban yuppies.

  7. Oh yippie. More development for developments sake. When will the idiots with such money and desires realize that what makes a place desirable (i.e. “profitable”) in the first place is the very character that they are now going to displace?

    And people are going to bitch about “dry” desserts? Come on, this place had something that no other place had, the “B” and the “O”. Now it’s going to be just another notch in the bedpost.

    What is it that makes a place? WHY do we want to live and hang out in some areas and not others? What do we freaking want out of life? Can we leave some place alone in Seattle to retain the character that drew us here in the first place? Can we please not turn this in to a gray Phoenix?? Fricking horrible…

    • Agreed! Seattle has no respect for history! Where are the Victorian neighborhoods still intact (like San Francisco)? I remember the original Vivace on (off) Broadway, looking out on Cal Anderson park, the new locations may serve the same great coffee, but the original location was amazing! I have seen two turn of the century mansions torn down in my neighborhood this past month. (15th and John) You cant replace that! The new bread boxes coming in are crap. People cite Vancouver as a role model, but we are not evening going full boat “city of glass” like Van City. Its going to be Bland-couver here before you know it.

  8. The B&O was the first place I went to when I moved to Seattle, and I loved it so much that I got a place a block away. It was a huge part of many important events in my life,as was Bauhaus. Now I live 3000 miles away, in a place that also holds little regard for the historical significance of its past. To my old neighbors, just be grateful they’re not putting in a Coyote Ugly. It happens.

  9. Well said, Jim….and very true. It’s such a cliche that “urban yuppies” have gotten such a bad reputation among certain people. In most cases, they are just folks who care about their neighborhood and are an important element in the revitalization of Capitol Hill. “Gentrification” is (mostly) a good thing.

    But I’m sorry to see the B&O go….it would just not be a good fit in a new, modern building.

  10. Am I the only person on Capitol Hill who walks along Broadway and sees the Billions of dollars this region is putting in to a transportation network that is going to make this neighborhood so much more desirable for so many more people? Being able to be downtown lickity split to the airport, downtown, and the University of Washington. And, eventually, to the eastside as well. I can guarantee you, the developers are seeing this, and making their moves to cash in.

    If we want better design in our neighborhood, get off this neighborhood blog, get in touch city council, find out what we need to do to have design guidelines with some teeth in them, and get moving. Otherwise, this cycle is just going to continue on.

  11. Thank You Majud and Jane for the 36 wonderful years you have given to so many of us grateful customers. While a sad milestone for some, it is also an extraordinary accomplishment and a tribute to your hard work and dedication.
    I sincerely hope you will grace Ballard with a new B&O!


  12. Sad to see a neighborhood institution like the B&O go, and even sadder to see it will be replaced by such an UGLY buliding. I understand and support urban density, but why such an ugly building? Squarely the blame goes to the developer and architect(?). Hooray for bad taste and greed!

  13. The politicians and planners in this town would sell anything for a bowl of lentil soup. They’d sell their souls, too, if they had any.

    Sally Clark never met a developer she wouldn’t bend over for. The rest of them have zero sense of history or true civic responsibility. The demolition of the B&O is but the latest in an onslaught of meaningless, useless “density” garbage emanating from the detached, arrogant and overpaid. I mean, who the hell is John Stoner, anyway? Some a-hole who wanders into the neighborhood with a wad of cash, decides to rape the landscape and gets a green light from absolutely nobody but the DPD?

    @ProstSeattle : Good luck getting off this neighborhood blog and getting in touch with the City Council to affect change. You’ll get the same thing people in the Roosevelt and Wallingford Neighborhoods got — years of public hearings and planning meetings, dozens of concessions to the City, only to be completely ignored when the plans were finalized. That’s the true “Seattle Process” — let ’em vent, then do what we were going to do in the first place. Ask the people having to vacate Yesler Terrace.

    But hey, if you’re Gates, Allen, Bezos or Stoner, it’s all about the grease. You call the shots, the oil slicks on the City Council say, “Higher towers and 5000 more parking slots at SLU? Sure! The Nickels-Drago Memorial Parkway can handle it now!”

    The result? “Seattle — Building tomorrow’s ghettos today!”

    P.S. To Majed Lukatah: Move to Ballard? Are you kidding? Been out there lately? It’s the latest high-rise hell hole.

  14. to be grey phoenix, we’d have to flatten every other block and leave them as empty lots with the perpetual promise that construction will start soon, while instead construction is all focused 20+ miles away in the outskirts. Then, make every road at least 3x as wide, put huge aboveground parking garages everywhere, and remove sidewalks. Make sure no housing is built near anything you can walk too. No mixed use development either (there’s like.. maybe 3 mixed use buildings in Phoenix, I lived in one and the retail was completely empty for years).

    Of all the neighborhoods in this fine city, Capitol Hill is probably the farthest from being anything like Phoenix. That’s what makes it such a great place to live. While I’ll be sad to see a cafe leave, it’s not like it is Espresso Vivace threatening to leave the hill or anything. B&Os coffee wasn’t anything special. Maybe some cool new businesses will move into the new building, we don’t know yet.

  15. More soulless, institutionally-financed garbage being built on Capitol Hill.

    Keep on destroying the historic fabric of our city.

    Parking for 50 cars and even more traffic.

    Overpriced apartments and shitty retail space.


    Suck it you greedy f-ers. Same to you sell-outs.

  16. This makes my heart sad. I know it’s hard to start over, but let me thrown my hat into the “please, please, PLEASE find a new location” ring. Regardless, many thanks for providing a lovely cafe in which to sip delicious drinks, eat amazing desserts, and discuss all manner of things but, most often, love.

  17. The area will become as sterile as Broadway with this new un-interesting type of building, hundreds of people used to pack Broadway on the weekends, now the Pike Pine area sterilization has begun. These developers are sickening, how Capital has changed over that last 30 years. Sterile buildings don’t have kids.

  18. So sorry to see the B&O go for yet another in a series of monoliths that are supposed to provide “homes” for people. I can, to some degree, understand the development on Broadway around the new transit lines but what about all of these other buildings that are going in all over Capitol Hill from Bellevue E on up to John St and above? I just noticed that the little houses (I think there are 4) that are on the way up to 15th and Safeway (on/off Republican?) now have a development sign posted on the property. Affordable living, my @$$! I wonder how long it will take for these “developers” to begin demolishing all of the lovely old stately homes on Cap Hill? I guess all that it takes is a seller . . . or eminent domain to condemn because some greedy developer wants to make a fast buck.

  19. We can piss and moan online, but really get active if you want to “save” Capitol Hill. Let’s keep the character but welcome progress. Demand our politicians keep the integrity of our community and developers recognize just how great this area is!

  20. I guess I am of that minority opinion as well. I was always underwhelmed by the food and found the prices to be expensive for what I got. Too much fancy, not enough substance. I’m sad to see the quirky old building go. I am not sad to see B&O go…

  21. I would strongly recommend that you refer to “Cakebread’s” comments re the success of attempting to “demand integrity” from a group that possesses none. After years of attending meetings and subsequently being ignored, there are many of us who have finally come to the conclusion that these meetings for public opinion are nothing more than appeasement and window dressing (i.e., an abject exercise in futility for anyone desiring to contribute an alternative plan). There exists a group in this area/City that has already planned and made their money-grubbing, densely-packed, rabbit warrens a done deal — not only in Capitol Hill but in several other areas of Seattle and King County.

  22. I have only been there a few times, service and food isn’t that great. Not much of a coffee drinker. My issue is with the owners and employees that park on the sidewalk and on the side of the street. I live a few blocks down and it seems even thought it states no parking (especially on the sidewalks, but somehow they get away with it. So for that fact happy to see it go. My hope is that they will open somewhere else and continue, but me being inconvenienced by them parking on the sidewalk and halfway in the street and do what they want without consequences, I don’t appreciate. Best of luck in your new location.

  23. My partner and I love B & O espresso. The coffee and food are excellent! I love all the period lighting, antique windows, and art on the walls. The owners are super sweet too. It makes me feel very sad that they are being forced to vacate and move elsewhere, and the beautiful building which is such an icon on Capitol Hill is being knocked down. Hey, but maybe we will get lucky and another under the cover Starbucks will move in, posing as and independent coffee house, or even better Taco Bell.

    We will totally be visiting them in Ballard!

  24. There is only 1 B&O Espresso and I was lucky to work at it and to work with Jane and Majed. Lots of good memories. Always loved all the desserts and lentil soup. Lots of luck in your new location in Ballard. I know it will be a sucess.

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