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Capitol Hill food+drink | Undaunted by Seattle wage debate, Ian’s moves in where Zpizza bailed

The Broadway location formerly home to the Zpizza chain stands empty this summer, pundits say, because of Seattle’s new minimum wage law. We don’t know what pundits will say about this. Come October, a new pizza chain will have moved into the same space. And the new owners seem way more into this whole $15 per hour thing.

“My friends and family brought it up more than people in the business,” Brandon Stottler tells CHS. “It feels more like the right thing to do to respect service workers and what they do.”

This fall, Stottler and business partner Ryan Flohr will open Ian’s Pizza on the Hill in the Broadway Building just north of Pine in the same space vacated by the minimum wage-challenged chain. Part of a small chain of Madison, Wisconsin-based pizza joints that proudly offers health insurance to its employees, the Ian’s philosophy is much more sympatico with Seattle’s pro-labor movement.

Its pizza is pretty out there, too. “We try to get really weird with our pizza,” Stottler said.

(Image: Ian's)

(Image: Ian’s)

Since starting in 2001, Ian’s has made its name with a focus on by-the-slice insanity including “all-time bestseller” Mac n’ Cheese. You’ll also find creations like Smoked Brisket and Tots or Cheesy Potato with Ranch. Ian’s is also planning to bring its old school salad bar concept with new school fixings and farmers market produce to Broadway. “Hopefully we can get something going with the farmers there,” Stottler said of the Sunday market that will take place across the street every weekend.

With only four shops in Wisconsin, Colorado, and soon Seattle, Ian’s is a much smaller player than the Zpizza. Under Seattle’s minimum wage implementation schedule, it won’t be on the hook for a $15 minimum until 2019. Zpizza franchisee Ritu Shah-Burnham told CHS in April that the city’s categorization of her business as a “schedule A” large employer was forcing her to shutter on Broadway. “When I saw what I had to do — if I had seven years, it was doable,” Shah-Burnham told CHS. “But to do it in 24 months, it was going to be too much.”

Stottler, who has lived in the Central District for six months after moving to Seattle to open the new Ian’s, says he is looking forward to eventually opening more locations in the area. And, yup, they’ll probably serve Ian’s Seattle Dog pizza complete with a layer of cream cheese.

Ian’s Pizza on the Hill will offer pizza by the slice, whole pies, delivery, and beer and wine and is planned to open in October at 1620 Broadway. You can learn more at

downloadCapitol Hill food+drink notes

  • While Ian’s might make a great place to throw a pizza party for the $15 Now crowd come 2017 (or 2019, depending on which schedule you want to throw your party on), Lionhead can host the Chinese party. Jerry Traunfeld’s Sichuan-flavored sibling to Poppy will open up — soon! — in the adjacent space left open when The Confectional, a minimum wage-fighting cheesecake concern shuttered on Broadway.
  • Capitol Hill pizza news just won’t quit. Portland’s Sizzle Pie is lined up for the former Auto Battery/Po Dog space on E Union. 19th Ave E’s Ernest Loves Agnes will include pizza in its rustic Italian offerings. Dino’s Tomato Pie is coming to E Olive Way at Denny while the folks at Still are opening an unnamed (last we checked) pizza joint at Pine and Minor. And, yes, Bill’s Off Broadway returns next month after a 20-month timeout at Harvard and Pine.
  • 11754376_1033638906655689_481330989180799120_oMeanwhile, the under construction Ian’s will soon have a new neighbor with Refresh Frozen Desserts and Espresso set to open in the former Yogurtland space.
  • And, speaking of pizza. Happy fifth birthday to E Pike’s Big Mario’s.
  • Meanwhile Big Mario’s brother Lost Lake is bravely mixing Groupon and 3 AM dining.
  • Speaking of the minimum wage, Capitol Hill-bound Renee Erickson and partners have adjusted the service charge at her tip-less restaurants: “After about eight weeks in, it became clear that 18.5% wasn’t quite adequate.”
  • The Madrona Ale House has closed. Owner Burke Shethar posted that he was unable to come to an agreement to renew the lease on the 20-year-old restaurant:
    I have mixed emotions as I will miss you loyal patrons, miss the fun and being a part of a great business community–I am nonetheless proud of my current and past staffers for the hard, but rewarding, work that we have done.
    The owners behind 12th Ave The Chieftain and two other Irish pub-themed concerns in the area plan to reopen the Madrona restaurant.
  • Full Tilt Capitol Hill, finally.
  • The Highline serving food every day again.
  • There’s a “new” French bistro coming to E Pine: Vivre.
  • When the Seattle Times reported last week on 16 diners suffering salmonella poisoning at a Tallulah’s Fathers Day brunch, we were interested to find out more about how the paper got the story as no bulletins were issued by the usually bulletin-friendly King County Public Health. Turns out, the story came from a tip from a diner sent to the Times. We’re also told Tallulah’s initiated the investigation when the restaurant reported the issue to the county as required after hearing from some of the sickened patrons.
  • (Image: Naka)

    (Image: Naka)

    Naka too pricey for you? How about “Naka hour?”

    The bar at Naka will offer their rendition of happy hour beginning Saturday, August 1.  From 5-6 pm and 9-11pm, guests will find specially-priced choices for both beverages and bites.  Jason Lock, the restaurant’s Director of Operations and Wine Director will select a notable red and white wine that will be available by the glass for $6.  Cocktail expert, Nik Virrey, will be shaking two drinks from Naka’s current cocktail list: the “Sundress”- house made lavender soda, marionberry vodka, lemon juice for $7 and the “Vieux Carre”- Cognac, Rye, sweet vermouth, Angostura  Bitters and Peychaud’s Bitters for $10.  

    Virrey’s mastery of liquid libations includes the opportunity to have him pour from the bar’s 50 +whiskies on hand, including a collection from Japan.  Several of the Japanese whiskies are hard to obtain, among them the bar’s one and only bottle of Hibiki, the 30-year Japanese whiskey that the Naka bar sells for $375 a pour.  During Naka Hour, a rotating whiskey flight of (3) ½ oz pours will be available. The opening flight will feature the Yamazaki 12-year, Yoichi 15-year, and Hibiki-17-year for $25 (a $35 value).

    From the kitchen during Naka Hour, Chef Shota Nakajima will be cooking Chicken Mabusi Rice Bowl- chicken sautéed in sharp soy with an egg blanket- $10,  Seafood Tartare- seasonal seafood tossed in yuzu aioli and served with vegetable chips-$11 and Sweet Yam Chips- $5.
  • It was Stevie Wonder season again at Plum.
  • Following his resignation in wake of takeover, Elysian co-founder Dick Cantwell has a new job as quality ambassador for the Brewers Association.
  • As Seattle’s Craft Breweries Grow, Will More of Them Be Gobbled Up by Big Corporations?
  • Li’l Woody’s featuring the Big Kahuna Burger, Pulp Fiction playing Central Cinema.
  • WHEN YOU STUMBLE ON THE BEST TZATZIKI you’ve ever had, as I did at the Capitol Hill Greek taverna Omega Ouzeri, you ask your waiter to box up what you can’t finish.”
  • Rest in peace, Tyler Moritz:

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32 thoughts on “Capitol Hill food+drink | Undaunted by Seattle wage debate, Ian’s moves in where Zpizza bailed

  1. I’ll be trying them out. Big Mario’s did a mac & cheese special a few years ago that was amazing.

    BTW, the Big Kahuna special at Lil Woody’s ended on Monday (07/27), and the showing of Pulp Fiction ended yesterday.

    • Ian’s pizza is pretty good for what it is in Madison: the only place serving pizza to drunk college kids after last call.

  2. I would like to point out that they will not have to adhere to the large business rules of minimum wage. They will have until 2021 to get to $15 and hour. I only had until 2017, without having a massive bank account like Chipotle, Starbucks and Amazon. Of course, I have mentioned this over and over again, I would not have closed down had I had the same rules as all other small businesses. This seems to conveniently be forgotten.

    • I went to your place all the time when I was going to school. I liked the food. It was good and you were always friendly. The other employees there were not so good though. I saw them doing a lot of things that probably kept people from coming back and adding to your business failing.

      I saw them drinking beer behind the counter.
      Talking about being hung over and getting wasted within earshot of families.

      I saw them watching tv while ignoring customers.

      I saw one guy on the phone talking to his friend and another lady making pizza while 5 people were waiting in line. No one was being helped.

      I saw them smoking right in front of the door while people inside needed to be served.

      I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. I know it’s hard for small businesses that don’t have the backing like big chains do. I don’t think the $15 /hr minimum wage was your problem though. At most it sped up what was going to happen anyway.

  3. Here’s our future, folks. Chains replacing local businesses.

    Chains have dissipated costs. They are able to spread costs between many businesses, while our local businesses have a more difficult time achieving the same profit than do chains.

      • To each their own opinion. I grew my business enough to pay off all debt associated with it, so if all the issues above were the reason I decided to close, I would have closed years ago. I imagine you knew that 55 percent of my business was delivery, as well, we did a lot of catering. Employees will always be an issue and work ethic is, as well. I live here, and the store was mine, therefore, it was locally owned. It was a franchise, but I paid the bills, paid payroll, taxes, worked there and not some corporate entity. I busted my butt, and it was MINE. So, how is that not local? Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have been open for as long as I was if I wasn’t good at what I did. No one can tell me what my business was capable of paying but me. So, saying that increasing my payroll 58 percent in 2 years won’t effect my business and isn’t my issue is definitely just an opinion. I imagine if your rent went up 58 percent in 2 years, you’d have no problem increasing your pay to make it happen? incidentaly, 58 percent would be approximately $7500 a month more that I would have needed to be able to pay all the bills. That would be more than my monthly rent. its easy to think you know that it isn’t the minimum wage, but the numbers are so outrageous, I lost the will to even manage after I decided to close. I know we all started slacking but what was the point, we already knew we were closing. It’s all finished now and I am actually the biggest loser in all this. I do hope that Ian’s Pizza thrives and does amazing.

      • I was just referring to what Andrew had said (“Chains replacing local businesses”) and, it seems like you are getting my comments mixed up with ilikezpizza’s above… Regardless, by your rationale, Jack in the Box, 7-11, Subway, etc. would all be considered local businesses. I am fairly certain most would agree that franchise or no, that isn’t the same thing. You didn’t REALLY own or start your business, even if you did put your money and heart on the line. Sorry.

        Anywho, I ate at your shop many times and while I understand your frustration, I did see some of the same poor management ilikezpizza mentioned above and, it seems there are plenty of other small, local businesses (including pizza shops) that aren’t too worried about the wage increase so, maybe that is saying something.

      • Actually, I don’t agree, I did start my business. I opened an LLC, negotiated my franchise contract, lease and did a full commercial build out. I did not make the recipes, but as a business owner decided that I wanted to pay for that service instead of hiring a chef. I opened Zpizza from scratch. No one just did it for me, I also just had to shut it down, And personally handled those details, as well. And I do think people are worried about the $15 an hour minimum wage. Why would anyone say anything? Look at all the speculation, slander, insults and general backlash I had to put up with after saying something. Speaking up will only get you bullied. It’s sad that is how it is. I didn’t open my own business? The franchisor gives you certain things, like recipes, but I did the rest. To think we don’t have to put work into a business because it’s a franchise, is ignorant. It takes a lot of work to open any sort of business, to disregard the work I put into it is REALLY insulting. I used local produce, served local beer, used a local distributor, signed off on the health department requirements for the farmers market when no one else would, displayed local art, and supported local charities. I, personally, feel like I contributed to Capitol Hill and Seattle with my business and would have continued to do so had I not been classified as a large business.

      • Ritu, I feel for you. It was totally unfair that franchisees such as yourself were classified as large businesses in the minimum wage legislation. You should have been given more time to get up to speed.

      • Franchise or not, I can empathize that you put a lot of hard work into your business and that it must be very difficult to feel forced to give it up. It sounds like the wound is still fresh and I get it. That said, I am pro-small business BUT I will be always be pro-worker first. If a business, (again franchise or not) can only survive by paying it’s employees poverty level wages then I do not consider it a viable business. I consider it exploitation.

      • I agree with that. I worked alongside my people and took no tips. I had 10 people stay with me until the end. This is not because they were making poverty level wages or because I treated them poorly. The majority of those people were with me for longer than 3 years, some I saw start and finish getting a degree while with working for me. Almost all of them made above minimum wage hourly and tips, as well, averaging approximately between $13 and $23 an hour, including tips. They all made decent wages with tips and received all the time off they needed for school or anything else they were doing that was a priority. I took care of my people, they were my family. I always chose to keep employees that added value and pay more. Training new people costs money. That all being said, of course, you are right, the wound is fresh. I am mostly upset because our city council decided my little place with 12 employees was a large business. How can that be when I worked so much? I would have had no problem with the wage increase if I had 6 years. I was already giving raises out with those kind of accelerators. Thank you for the kind words.

    • Just to let you know, Ians has a grand total of 5 locations (Seattle makes 6), with 2 in Madison, 2 in Milwaukee and one in Denver. If you think that that equals some huge (evil) chain, you’re horribly mistaken.

      They also offer great wages and a 401k to all full-time employees, and have offered health insurance (100% employer funded, too!) for the past decade+.

      If anything, we need more of those types of companies, not less.

      • I agree with this. I’m also a big fan of Vivace and Fuel – which have multiple locations! it’s hard to say where the tipping point in growth comes, when the product seems to get lost because profit becomes the highest priority (McDonald’s etc).

        As for franchises, they are stuck in the middle, and it’s unfair that they are classified as big businesses. I’m sorry that Ritu had to close Zpizza.

      • Travis – they are a national chain. It’s a strawman to suggest that anyone has stated (to my knowledge), ” If you think that that equals some huge (evil) chain, you’re horribly mistaken.”

        Zeek’s Pizza IS local (, and to the fellow that had to close – I’m sorry that you had to be another canary in the coal mine. I know how hard it is to operate a small business, and you are a cautionary tale.

        What will be interesting is how will many of the well-meaning spinners in the press and in the real world react when your story happens again…and again…and again.

        Recently another Seattle business had to change their whole service charge program when the 18.5% had to be moved to 20%, while at the same time, the owners had to contribute from their own salary to keep their staff.

        Here’s two stories that need to be remembered. They will not be the last, alas.

        Justin – when will you start to put away your well-meaning/intentioned bias and start to notice what is the reality?

      • Zeek’s Pizza did not close. zPizza closed. Despite having the same first letter and having the word “pizza”, they’re not the same.

        And the business you refer to that increased service charge is Renee Ericsson’s small foodie chain. They’re opening 3 new outlets this year. Seems to be going aok for them too.

  4. I was glad to be a part of the hill and my Broadway building community for so long, I will miss it. It was quite the experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  5. I’m a little unclear about where the “service charge” is going in those (few) restaurants that have instituted it. Jeremy Price, Renee Erickson’s business partner, says that most of the service charge is going to pay for the increased wages and for health/retirement benefits. But where does that leave the servers and bartenders, who presumably are making alot less in tips under this policy? Perhaps their base wage has gone up, but does this make up for the decreased tips? If none (or very little) of the service charge is going to them, I would think their net income is significantly down. Am I missing something?

  6. So that makes… how many pizza places on the Hill? Hot Mama’s, Mario’s, Via Tribunali, Pagliacci, Palermo, Olympia III, Mad Pizza, Bill’s will be open again soon, and now Ian’s and Sizzle? (Let’s not count Domino’s.) I think that’s enough pizza options for now, thanks. One or more of them are going to go out of business at some point soon and I don’t want to hear any more boohooing.

    • Yeah, plenty enough pizza places. Not enough burger places. I’d be fine with even some national/international low-priced chains like McDonalds, Wendys, Burger King, JITB, etc.

      • Yeah, we only have Blue Moon, Li’l Woody’s, 8 Ounce Burger Bar, Dick’s, Freddie Junior’s, and a bunch of restaurants that also make excellent burgers like St. John’s. And for McDonald’s you have to go all the way to MADISON, for crying out loud.

  7. Ian’s Pizza is a national chain. THIS is a perfect example of our future. Our local businesses close, to be replaced by a national, or larger company.

    Do you guys not quite understand what has happened here? Zeek’s Pizza is a local chain. They have been replaced by a national chain. The money will flow OUT of the state.

    THIS is our future. THIS is a great example of what we will see more and more and more, as local people are forced out/fail, and will be replaced by larger/national businesses that have lower costs of doing business, and thus – can afford to pay the higher wages.

    Justin, I’m rather amazed that you did not notice what the real story was here…the real story is that this is a harbinger of our future, and not a positive one, either.