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Broadway says goodbye to Charlie’s — UPDATE: Confirmed :(

UPDATE:  After 39 years, Charlie’s owner Ken Bauer gives his regards to Broadway: CHS talks with Charlie's owner about history of the restaurant and why he's closing it this Pride after four decades on Broadway

UPDATE: After 39 years, Charlie’s owner Ken Bauer gives his regards to Broadway: CHS talks with Charlie’s owner about history of the restaurant and why he’s closing it this Pride after four decades on Broadway

All these years, nobody wanted to buy a Broadway legend. Charlie’s, a last of its kind Capitol Hill hangout that had been perpetually on the market in recent years, will close later this month, employees of the 39-year-old restaurant are saying.

Charlie’s owner Ken Bauer said he could not confirm the closure Tuesday afternoon but would be able to say more about the situation later this week. The Hill’s social network has spread the word in the meantime. The Facebook and Twitter lamentations for decades of pool tables, reasonable prices, and unreasonably late nights run thick.

UPDATE 6/17/2015 9:15 AM: The restaurant will close Pride weekend, according to a statement:

Sorry to announce that after 39 years we will be shutting out doors. Our last day will be either Saturday or Sunday pride weekend so please come in and say farewell to our awesome family

Bauer and business partner Charles Quinn opened Charlie’s in 1976 and survived through the changes on Broadway mostly by not changing. Open 9 AM to 2 AM every day, Charlie’s still featured cheap steak nights and “cozy booths” even as Broadway sprouted six-story developments, craft cocktail bars, and a light rail station. Gasp — there are even places to park behind the 217 Broadway E restaurant. Sadly, CHS never tried the Philadelphia Pepper Pot Soup.

After Quinn died and as the end of Charlie’s 10-year lease approached, Bauer and wife Christine had put the “bar and grill” on the market. CHS wrote about the attempt to sell in 2010. At that time, it was listed for just a little more than $385,000. Bauer said he was looking forward to stepping away from the seven-day-a-week schedule but that running Charlie’s had been a labor of love.  “If we don’t sell, I’ve always told friends I hope they carry me out of here feet first,” Bauer told CHS at the time.

CHS also asked Bauer this week if a sale was imminent but he declined to comment, again, and said he would need a few more days before he could say more.

“I’ve always told my employees ‘Everything is for sale,’” Bauer told CHS in 2010.

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46 thoughts on “Broadway says goodbye to Charlie’s — UPDATE: Confirmed :(

  1. I’m sad it’s finally happening. Not surprised by any means, but sad.

    Time marches on and eventually everybody gets caught up in it. I’ve enjoyed the 20 years I’ve been eating there and will miss it.

  2. My dad always loved the pepper pot soup. Sad to see so many cool, cheap places go from Broadway. Guess that’s why I don’t dine out much on BW anymore; not interested in those “craft cocktail bars.” I’ll content myself w/getting a frozen dinner @ the QFC until the landlord raises the rent and I move who knows where. RIP.

  3. I worked there as a busser and a waitress from 1980 – 1984…. It’s a sentimental favorite I still visit from time to time. They have the best steak fries and fish and chips on the hill…. Ken Bauer was not afraid to get his hands dirty, he earned my eternal respect for getting out on the floor and doing it all. He was a good boss. I understand his closing Charlie’s still it makes me sad… It was a part of the hill, a hill that’s long gone. Back then Charlie’s opened at 11am and closed at 3 am. I worked every Saturday night for 3 years, 5:30 in the evening until nearly 4 in the morning. We all worked hard and we had a lot of fun!!

  4. Charlie’s — the place of our first date, way back in 1980. We’ve been married 31 years. Thank God the waiter didn’t card me! I was only 19!

    • How hilarious I was just thinking about my boyfriend and I use to go there in the 80s to drink and play the video game “Food Fight” I think I was 19 and they never carded me!

  5. Met my wife of 20+ years while working at Charlie’s in the early 90s. We live out of state now and brought our kids back for a visit a few years back and Antonio was still back in the kitchen. A little bit sad to read that the doors will be closing.

    • Wow…

      Richard here, Charlie’s Alumni circa 1994-99…

      So many memories… always thought I would make it back one day for one more bowl of Pepperpot or a Sunday morning Bloody Mary!

  6. This hits hard. When I lived on Broadway in the Casa Del Rey and whenever I could gouge ten bucks out of my budget, I’d be down there. I moved to another part of the city but got back when I can; when I moved to the Hill I’d get to-go burgers all the time. I’m with a woman now who has as intense a relationship with the place as I do, and the news that it is closing just devastated us. We have to get out of this taxidermied techie fun forest.

  7. I grew up on broadway in the 80’s. I spent many late nights in charlies. I am sad that the neighborhood feel and charm is seeping from the veins of what Broadway was. Charlies was a part of that unique family culture, surviving the AIDS Era and street kids. I have many found memories. I always loved the picture on the way into the ladies room of the mother and daughter at the opera.Certainly seems fitting now, the expressions on their faces, I am sure is what they are feeling about losing such a integral part of what Broadway was.RIP Charlies and god help Broadway it’s over and onto bland cloneville of high prices and stale just like every other place USA!

    • @Rene ~ What you said! Fond memories indeed… That picture on the way into the ladies room? I’ve always remembered that mother and daughter at the opera, so perfect was their scorn. I’d give a lot to have a copy of that picture, and I’ll dearly miss Charlie’s for all those long-ago hours spent there at all hours.

  8. This is too bad. Charlie’s has not been a culinary hotspot, but we have too many of those anyway. What it does have is good, reasonably-priced food and a pleasant ambience. I’ll miss it!

  9. Makes me so sad. I remember the Bellevue Charlie’s too, when Bellevue Square was a little outdoor shopping area with Penney’s as the flagship store, and nothing was over 4 stories. I started going to the Capitol Hill one in 1984 and have sat at every table in the place. I loved how civilized it was. You could take your parents there. They often had classical music and the staff always seemed so dapper and professional. And yet, people from every walk of life were welcomed, without the bat of an eye. It was quintessential Broadway. Birthday brunches, break-ups, late night post-movie snacks, philosophical discussions at the cozy two-tops enthroned in the high-backed upholstered chairs; so many memories. And where oh where will I be able to have a Monte Cristo?? I wonder if there will be some sort of sale or auction. What will they do with the amazing stained glass on the ceiling? And what about all the unchanging art? The black-and-white photos of movies stars long dead, the eclectic prints that have been a part of the Charlie’s ambiance for so long. I’d be interested to know.

    • The big pages from fashion magazines of years past. I made up a spontaneous poem about Wallis Warfield Simpson when we were sitting in the booth with her picture in it one night.

  10. Aw man, this is the worst. Charlie’s was my favorite bar from the moment I discovered there was a back room (somehow it took me 3 visits to make the discovery)

    Where will we go now? The summit public house? The bar at jai thai?

    • Two places that still have a bit of the”old Capitol Hill” vibe, even though they’re both on the somewhat new side, are Hillside and Clever Dunnes on Olive. Summit Public House is a good place as well.

  11. This makes me very sad. My Mom took me there for the first time in the early 80s – it was a celebration of her financial independence and getting her first credit card in her own name; I’ve spents my lunch hours there for years; my Mom, my daughters and I have gone there for Valentines Day date nights; I’ve gone there to read, eat nachos & drink iced tea while waiting to pick up my daughter from a dance; I just took my oldest daughter and her girlfriends to post-prom dinner there last (introduced several of them to the cheese sticks for the first time & they keeping asking about them), and we were eating there when we found out that my grandfather passed away (it was very fitting place to be since he was a nostalgic soul). It has been a favorite place of mine for decades, and that of my children for as far back as they can remember. The staff have always been fabulous, food has always been yummy. Many memories, many great times.

  12. Maybe Meinert can buy it after it closes and transform it into a completely different place with overpriced menu items. You know, so it will attract nothing like the crowd it does now.

    RIP Charlie’s. Many blurry nights after one too many Long Islands, which may as well just have been (and probably was) a pint of mixed liquors and a splash of something for color.

    • Maybe someone will pick up the lease, spruce it up a bit, and open another restaurant a lot like Charlie’s. Why does everyone always insist on jumping to the worst of all conclusions? It’s a great location and a nice feel to it. Why do we always assume a new owner will completely destroy it? Just because nobody wanted to pay $385,000 for the existing business does not automatically mean the whole place will be gutted and turn into a TGI Fridays or an Olive Garden.

      • worst case scenario has been a pretty good bet lately. that’s a hot zone there by the rail station and someone’s going to make something nice and marketable

      • because the place has been for sale for a LONG time and nobody bought it. DUH

        Sadly, it’s gone only to be replaced by an empty space and eventually another overprices shithole like the other trendy hipster spots on Broaday.

      • Perhaps nobody bought it because they didn’t see the intrinsic value of $385,000 for the business. Remember, they don’t own the land. Recall that the actual business of Chop Suey was for sale for, I believe, about $100k? (somebody correct me if I’m wrong) and nobody thought the Chop Suey BUSINESS was worth $100k either. All that proves is nobody thought the value in the existing business of Charlie’s was $385k. It doesn’t mean someone won’t pick up the lease, turn right around, and open a similar (or different) restaurant.

  13. It is so sad to see Charlie’s demise. The restaurant was always the place for me to go each time I needed reasonably priced good food. Nothing really fancy about their menu but the cooks always delivered. (I said cooks because way back when Charlie’s opened, the term chef was not de rigueur.)

    About three years ago, my nephew and his fiancée (now his wife) told me they were treating me to a dinner for my upcoming retirement and asked me to pick a restaurant in Capitol Hill. (I had lived in Capitol for so many years up to my retirement.) I immediately suggested Charlie’s! I told them that 1) I haven’t gone to Charlie’s for a long time and would like to revisit the place; 2) I was feeling sentimental about the place; and 3) their food has always been consistently good and reasonably-priced.

    True enough. Just like many, many years ago Charlie’s delivered the goods. I did notice a little bit decline in the quality of their food (I don’t exactly remember the mild faux pas). And the prices are still reasonably priced. Well, prices have gone up a little bit but certainly much, much lower than what other restaurants were charging at the time.

    As the old cliché goes, “Nothing lasts forever.” And even the ol’ reliable Charlie’s had run its course. Thank you for the wonderful memories Charlie’s! Next time I visit Seattle (I have retired in the Philippines), I just hope and pray that the building stays and not demolished. But the way Broadway is going now with all sorts of business and buildings popping up left and right, I wouldn’t be surprised that Charlie’s and the building itself will not be there anymore. Surely, it will be a sad moment for me!

  14. I’ve been going to Charlie’s since it opened. Grew up on the hill. My mother’s would take me there at midnight or on londen broil special night. Just rediscovered it as a great place to sit with my laptop and work. My mother, Jody, still hangs out in the bar for Mariners games.
    The Hillers will miss you Charlie’s!

  15. I doubt another restaurant will take over Charlie’s spot. There have been hints that the half block will be demolished with 6 over 1 development going in, From Rite-Aid to the Alley, including the Alley. Might go further north if the properties can be assembled.

  16. Glad I lived on the hill between 1982-2000, not the same anymore. Now with Charlie’s gone, it’s all history now. I loved the painting of the bleached blonde mother and daughter that used to be in the women’s bathroom.

    • My all time favorite was Mother and Daughter at the Opera in the women’s room too! Charlie’s was remodeled in ’82 and it was one of the pieces that stayed. It’s gone. I asked Ken about it’s absence a few months back and he said it was stolen. :( !!!!!!!!

  17. I call first dibs on the carpet back in the pool room!

    (Which I heard originally was a remnant pulled from an old stripper club.)

  18. So so so sad. I have been coming to Charlie’s since 1990. I still remember the first time I went. Such a cool atmosphere. Spending many happy times there, good food, drinks with awesome friends. My 30th Birthday Dinner lol And then later sharing it with my babies too.
    No this place just can’t close. Too many awesome memories :(

  19. Oh, boy: I went there just last night with a good friend. Y E S…we had the Pepper Pot soup. We’ve loved to go there to play cards; my friend would have a Coffee Nudge, and we’d share nachos. Sigh. The condos have taken over Capitol Hill, and I have no idea what the “new Broadway” will be like.

  20. My longtime and great friend, Ken Bauer, will now hopefully take some well deserved ‘Ken time’ to recharge a little bit. I rember the staff trainings I did on wine service, starting with the original crew prior to the opening in 1976. Fun times at a long-time great restaurant…it will be missed!

  21. Best Monte Cristo I’ve ever had, anywhere…going back to the ’80s! Guess that’s the end of an era for Broadway!

  22. Best booths on the Hill and probably the city; best servers; amazing Long Island iced teas (and the “3 LI iced tea limit” that I broke so many times), drippy monte cristos, and suspiciously firm, savory cheesesticks — yes! ! !
    Been a patron since 89/90, but really became a regular from 95 to 04. Best Charlie’s memory was the surge of theatre folks that would fill the place after each night of the old Fringe Festival. Us art-loving schmucks working the houses/tech for the fringe fest would let off steam after our 9 – 13 hour shifts and really paint the town red. And our waiters and waitresses were the very best kind: smart, friendly, snarky, flirty, helpful, witty, sarcastic realists, and rarely fast, giving us all the more time to socialize and drink and enjoy the moment we were in. :)

    *cue WhereEverybodyKnowsYourName underscore ;)

    Considering the Avalanche of nostalgia, I’d hope Ken might offer to auction off booths, pictures, pieces of memories for people. (I would happily buy a used booth from Charlie’s to put in my breakfast nook !)
    “everything’s for sale’ after all… :)

  23. I’m super sad to see it go but I am thankful that David Meinert isn’t buying it and turning it into another frat house.

  24. Had been going to Charlie’s for over a decade took my wife on our first date , our kids loved the food there, they also took there dates there a lot of MEMORIES .one thing I miss the most and can’t find anywhere else and if someone know the RECIPE please email it …are their TRIPLE DEATH CHICKEN WINGS!!!

  25. Such great memories of Charlie’s and of Ken–always a perfect gentleman. I was so impressed by the way they treated and cared for Juanita–an older, long-time customer. May you and your family enjoy some well-deserved rest, knowing how much you’ll be missed and what a loyal, grateful fan base you have.