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More tough times for Tully’s: 19th/Aloha cafe to close

As can be the usual around Capitol Hill, smaller local changes around big coffee can be the harbinger of things to come.

People familiar with the situation say the longtime Tully’s cafe at 19th and Aloha is set to close later this month. According to court documents, the struggling Seattle-based coffee chain has larger problems.

CHS has found a series of judgments against Global Baristas, the holding company that took over the struggling chain in 2013. They include more than $300,000 owed in taxes to the state of Washington and decisions including a $102,000 judgment for unpaid rent on the company’s Western Ave offices earlier this month.

While we have not yet found any filings related to the lease for the cafe at 19th and Aloha, the cafe’s employees are telling customers the bad news. CHS has questions out to a lawyer representing the longtime property owners and will update when we hear back. A manager at the cafe said he was not authorized to speak with media.

Tully’s representatives from Global Baristas have not responded to our messages.

The cafe in the 1925-built restaurant building was said to be one of the company’s most expensive leases as it underwent financial tumult before its 2013 acquisition. That same year, Starbucks picked the bones to snatch up the space Tully’s had called home at Pike and Broadway. Many old timers wax poetic about a previous tenant of the 19th and Aloha space — the Surrogate Hostess.

Beyond the financial and lease issues, Global Baristas has had an all around bad year in the courts. In October, the company suffered a seemingly uncontested default judgment in a $120,000 sex discrimination case involving a West Seattle barista and a King County Superior Court ruling confirmed an arbitrator’s ruling in an expensive legal tangle with Asia Food Culture Management, the company it has partnered with in a joint venture to bring cafes to South Korea.

Tully’s filed for bankruptcy in 2012 setting in motion the acquisition and, now, its latest round of financial troubles. The case managing its federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings was officially closed in October. We tally 20 cafes currently operating in and around Seattle. In 2012, the company employed more than 400 people.

UPDATE: Tully’s founder Tom O’Keefe supplied some history of the chain’s presence on 19th Ave E — it opened there October 23, 1997.


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14 thoughts on “More tough times for Tully’s: 19th/Aloha cafe to close

  1. I hope something or somebody interesting goes into that very nice space. Wouldn’t it be perfect for a neighborhood bookstore/library with a small coffee shop…?

  2. Bring back the Surrogate Hostess! It rocked, and it would do a killer business with all the overworked Millennials in that neighborhood now.

  3. I agree that The Surrogate Hostess MUST return! It was a wonderful restaurant with reasonable prices. I even remember it at its original location on 15th Ave E.

  4. When I worked there in the 90s the staff referred to the place as The Surly Ho. The owner at the time was horrible for what we now call wage theft, demanding work off the clock, and not even counting overtime. Many of us were stuck at a training wage rate for months before being switched to regular wages. I stuck it out until the check for back pay came through. Still, it was a fun group of people to work with.

  5. It has been a wonderful neighborhood coffee shop whether you like Tully’s coffee or not. It is a multi generational meeting place. Early mornings one can find tables of senior citizens who are friends from the neighborhood having coffee together, kids from Holy Names, Saint Joe’s, parents of those kids and neighborhood patrons. It is a wonderful gathering place. Someone please continue to keep it a coffee and meeting place! If I could afford it, I would keep it a coffee shop.

  6. Surrogate Hostess was a great place. Simple menu and great taste. I love Tullys too. It is always a great place to stop on my way north and grab something quick.

  7. Just looked it up on parcel viewer. The property was sold to Tiveden LLC. on November 1, 2017. They registered with the Department of Revenue on November 2, 2017. Which I would interpret that it was sold to a developer and will be completely gone before we know it. Sniff Sniff……

  8. Looks like Both the Tully’s parcel and the parcel that houses Megan Mary Olander flower shop were transferred to Tiveden LLC.