Ghost Note’s next measure of Capitol Hill coffee: craft subtlety, no tipping, and Bellevue Ave’s first barista dress code

An up and coming player in Seattle’s craft coffee scene is bringing his take on the subtleties of a good brew to Capitol Hill.

“It’s really a simple kind of core idea with the coffee but we’re doing every little small thing we can to make it better,” Christos Andrews tells CHS about Ghost Note, the new multiroaster cafe set to take over the Bellevue Ave home of Broadcast Coffee.

Ghost Note is a tuneful reference to “a note that has rhythmic value but no musical value,” Andrews says, and a nod to the nuances his new venture will foster to help raise the cafe to a higher register of Seattle coffee culture. Custom mugs from a local ceramics maker, collared shirts and uniformed employees, no tipping, fresh herb and citrus garnishes, “an emphasis on housemade elements borrowed from craft bartending” — all will add to the accompaniment.

Broadcast, meanwhile, will leave Capitol Hill after just under five years in the neighborhood to concentrate on a new Central District roastery and cafe at 25th and Jackson. “Our roots are in the CD and we couldn’t be more excited to expand in the neighborhood,” Broadcast owner Barry Faught tells CHS. The location at 2517 S Jackson complete with a roasting facility, offices, and a cafe is planned to open by March.

Broadcast won’t be exiting Bellevue Ave completely. As part of the deal to take over the space, Ghost Note will include Broadcast beans as part of its featured offerings. “It’s something we’re really excited to do,” Andrews said. “It’s one of the best roasters in Seattle.”

A Capitol Hill resident for six years, Andrews will make the leap to business owner after a few years as coffee director at Central District’s Tougo Coffee and Columbia City Bakery. His partner in Ghost Note is longtime friend Lee Hampton who is the “biz guy” and extremely creative, Andrews says. Hampton is a New Yorker and Andrews said he eventually could see Ghost Note expanding.

But first, he’ll take over the Broadcast space on Bellevue Ave on February 1st with plans to open in March. Expect some interior work in the space that “won’t be crazy minimalist” but will play into the Ghost Note aesthetic — “simple but there will be color,” Andrews says. New equipment will also be installed and Andrews will be busy hiring employees.

Ghost Note just might have Capitol Hill’s first barista dress code calling for what Andrews said will be a “professional” look with collared shirts, aprons, and, he said, probably joking, handlebar mustaches only by special permission. There will be no tipping. Instead, a 10% gratuity fee will be part of your transaction.

In return, a Ghost Note barista will be richly rewarded. Andrews said part of his business model is a “high wage” and a passion for employee morale. “I’m planning to spend more on personnel than anybody else,” Andrews said.


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11 thoughts on “Ghost Note’s next measure of Capitol Hill coffee: craft subtlety, no tipping, and Bellevue Ave’s first barista dress code

  1. I’m sad to see Broadcast go, they were one of the most supportive places I’ve ever worked. A great staff and lots of knowledge and excitement without the BS hierarchy of many other coffee places around.

    Best of luck to them with the new roastery!

    • As a customer, I’ll miss it too. The staff were wonderful! They really knew their craft without being snobby about it. Always so friendly and willing to give great recommendations.

  2. Can we please stop framing a forced gratuity as a “No Tipping” model. This is incredibly frustrating to make something tacky sound like something that benefits the consumer. It is beyond me why places who do this think it’s a good idea. Please just raise the prices 10% and stop insulting me by telling me that you’re tip free but then forcing me to give you extra money. I have not interest in paying $2 extra for a $20 bag of coffee that you didn’t roast. Despite being a coffee fanatic, I will not be going to Ghost Note for this reason.

    Optimism Brewing is the only place I know of with a true “No Tipping” policy. The bartenders don’t even have a *wink*wink* thing going where you can insist on giving them a tip, they’ll flat out refuse. It’s because they price their beers higher and start their employees off at $20/hr. Now THAT I can support.

    • Hi there! Christos at Ghost Note here. Believe it or not, Lee and I both 100% agree with yo on this. When designing our menu, we both wanted to just price our items 10-15% higher than our competitors, and have no mention of “Gratuity” or tips. You’re totally right, we’re pricing the items higher with the gratuity fee, so why not just be open about it and show those prices in the first place?
      Unfortunately, most people aren’t ready for that sticker shock yet in coffee shops. Gratuity fee is already risky in coffee shops, let alone having way more expensive drinks than anyone. People see the price and don’t think about what they WOULD have paid at another shop plus their tip (they could actually be paying less). They just see it as way overpriced hipster coffee. We looked at what we’d have to price the menu to be able to pay baristas what we want without tacking an extra charge, and we both agreed it looked uncomfortably high for most people.
      That said, I’m really happy there are people like you who see that the whole tipping system is kind of a sham anyway, and if/when we expand to another location, we certainly hope to start without the Gratuity fee and do what you suggest. I hope to make you delicious coffee some day, despite us not committing to that ideal menu format yet. If you any additional comments or concerns, feel free to reach out.

    • Christos,

      I appreciate the reply. I hope my initial comment wasn’t discouraging. I think you all mean well and I admire the earnestness in wanting to pay people well.

      I understand what you’re saying about the menu prices being a bit of sticker shock if you priced things 10% higher. However, I can’t help but feel this solution is insulting and borderline sneaky. You’ll essentially be counting on people not noticing the 10% fee, not being able to do the math, or not realizing until it’s too late, as a way to make this more palpable and avoid displaying the true cost.

      I also find this insulting that you think the general consumer wouldn’t understand the factors that make your prices higher, assuming you market your shop correctly. I can’t help feel that this might also show a lack of confidence in the ability to prepare a beverage that would be worthy of a higher price.

      Yes, I think tipping is a sham (however, I tend to tip well personally). This model, however, is a giant step backwards in my opinion and I fully believe people have a worse experience than if you had a tip jar or higher prices.

      I really do wish you the best of luck, there can never be too many places that serve good coffee. I hope you prove me wrong on all this.

  3. ugh, more of this surcharge nonsense? just charge what you need to charge upfront and say that is what you are doing. I am more than willing to pay a premium for great products and services, but quit with all of the hoop jumping, it smells like disrespect for the customer. we are intelligent enough to understand that good raw materials and fair wages require a certain price.

  4. Bought a $1500 automatic espresso machine 4 months ago and it has almost paid for itself. No more lines, cranky people, tipping wars, $5.00+ lattes and sometimes less than great lattes. I’ve learned to steam milk and all is well with the world.

    • Ah but cloey, ya can’t really get a respectable coffee out of an automatic. Now a semi-atomatic or a manual pull machine for the same price, that’s where true delicious art can be made…

  5. I think there is a difference between a coffee stand, where the service is brief….and a full-service restaurant, where service lasts over the course of a meal. I don’t think a tip, or a service charge, is necessary in the former….but I think the latter requires it.

  6. Broadcast in Capitol Hill was my favorite neighborhood coffee shop and I’ll miss it. It was a nice quiet, calm place to go read or work or chat with friends, and the drinks were amazing. I hope that Ghost Note will have a similar vibe and good quality drinks.

    Regarding the 10% surcharge, I usually tip much more than 10% when I’m buying just one drink, usually .50 or $1, but if I’m buying a bag of coffee, then I probably tip less than 10%. I’m sure there are many people who don’t tip at all at coffee shops, but I used to work as a barista and appreciated the tips, so I like to pay it forward. So I’d be tipping less than usual at Ghost Note, but I’m sure many customers don’t tip at coffee shops at all. I’d probably be less likely to buy a bag of coffee at Ghost Note because of the surcharge, even if it’s Broadcast coffee which I love, unless they also offer a free drink like many other places do when you purchase a bag.

  7. Thank you Broadcast coffee for the great coffee and customer service!! You will be missed here on Bellevue Ave!! So sad, but great luck and fortune in your new shop!!