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As sibling Liberty ponders going co-op, Good Citizen focuses on coffee, not cocktails

The plans for Good Citizen, Andrew Friedman’s second Capitol Hill hangout that eased into operation more than a year ago only to quietly go dormant again, have changed. Meanwhile, Liberty, Friedman’s plucky 15th Ave E bar that made its reputation in growing Seattle’s craft cocktail scene out of equal parts integrity and bitters, is up for sale — but likely only available to a very special group of buyers: the people who work there.

After opening as an event space more than a year ago, Good Citizen on E Olive Way is, for now, anyhow, moving forward as a cafe — craft cocktail-free.

Friedman tells CHS Good Citizen re-opened “just for fun” starting Tuesday, June 21. Right now, the store only has Stumptown coffee, but Friedman says pastries, and coffee from other roasters will soon be available. You can stop by now though be prepared for a flexible schedule as Friedman’s crew sorts things out.

The concept for the E Olive Way venue was based on Liberty, the original in the family, which is open as a coffee bar by day, cocktail bar by night, 365 days a year. Friedman says he doesn’t know now if he’ll ever open Good Citizen as a bar but declined to get into specifics. We’re checking with the liquor board to find out if there’s any explanation for issues on the liquor end of things.

Good Citizen has stayed as an event space for the past year and a half because, according to Friedman, “We had a kid, and we decided we’d rather spend time with her than be in a bar 18 hours a day.”

Meanwhile, Liberty may become Seattle’s first co-op cocktail bar. Friedman said that after 10 years, he feels the time has come to sell the craft cocktail bar on 15th Ave E, but he was hesitant to break up what feels very much like a family. The solution? Sell the bar to the staff.

Friedman tells CHS he is working out the plan now with some friends who work at a co-op themselves, but the staff has been very receptive to the idea. “I didn’t want to just sell Liberty to the highest bidder,” he said.

While Liberty won’t be the first worker collective active in Capitol Hill’s food and drink economy, it could be the first bar. Black Coffee operated a cooperative cafe on E Pine until shuttering the venture in 2014. Meanwhile, the neighborhood has a leader in worker ownership to model off of — Central Co-op restructured in 2015 to make workers part of the ownership structure.

Good Citizen in February 2015

Good Citizen in February 2015

Good Citizen first opened in February 2015 after two years of battling red tape — and the city’s move to a $15 minimum wage. While he dealt with delays with local government over permits and inspections of his project, Friedman and his 15th Ave E bar Liberty also took on city leaders in the fight against a $15 minimum in Seattle. During the time, Friedman also lost his right-hand man as Liberty co-owner Keith Waldbauer left to work on a book and his consulting business.

Friedman declined to comment on whether the $15 minimum wage issues had anything to do with the delay in opening. However, he did say he had the lease to Good Citizen “before the minimum wage issue came up.” His possible transition out of the craft cocktail business would mark and interesting twist for the man who helped found both the Washington State Bartender’s Guild and the Washington Distiller’s Guild.

At Good Citizen, there is no date for a more official opening, but Friedman says it will be in the coming weeks. In keeping with the theme of still feeling things out, Good Citizen’s hours are also still undecided: right now they open at 8 AM and are still determining when to close, and Friedman says the opening time may change to 7 AM.

Labor advocates, take note. Friedman is also working on a special project this weekend — involving child labor:

Hey, Good Citizen will be hosting a lemonade stand on Sat. & Sunday, and we need kids to ‘sell’ some lemonaid!

We’ll be raising money for …crap, I forget which non-profit, but if you have a favorite non-profit, let’s chat about that.

We’re looking for some kids who want a shift or people who want to support a few great non-profits that help kids, and we’ll be doing it between 10am & 5ish(?) on both days.

AND! We’ll be shooting photos of the kids behind the stand, so that’ll be hi-sterical.

OK! Who is in?

Good Citizen is located at 1720 E Olive Way. You can learn more on the Good Citizen Facebook page.

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4 thoughts on “As sibling Liberty ponders going co-op, Good Citizen focuses on coffee, not cocktails

  1. I must say it’s relief to see that Mr. Friedman can afford to renovate and rent a space without revenue for two years, despite the financial ruin that Seattle’s minimum wage law wrought upon him.

  2. So….there was some place there that actually was in business temporarily allegedly selling goods since Online Cafe closed years ago? Because I walk by this place all the time and never noticed. If so, then I wonder if they closed because of an absolutely terrible lack of signage or any indication whatsoever that there actually was an active business there??

  3. Isn’t a co-op generally owned by customers, not employees?

    And isn’t it odd that a bar that opposed a near-living wage would go employee-owned?

    I’d be curious to know if the employees can afford to buy the bar given their likely wages.