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Saba, 12th Ave restaurant at center of Sawant displacement fight, set for eviction

Inside Saba (Image: Saba Ethiopian Cuisine)

Though the building it calls home won’t be demolished for months, 12th Ave’s Saba is being shown the door after a King County Superior Court judge upheld an unlawful detainer case against the Ethiopian restaurant whose fight against displacement has been championed by District 3 rep Kshama Sawant.

“We technically have a month left. But the judge read the lease differently,” Saba Teklegiorgis tells CHS. She says her mother’s restaurant has been in an unfair fight with the management company brought in to help push the tenant out by the property’s owners. Tactics, she says, have included claiming Saba had failed to pay its rent even though the restaurant found another way to make sure the landlord got its check.

“If they are within the law, I don’t know why they keep doing dirty things,” she said.

CHS first reported on the battle around owner Workie Wubushet’s restaurant last fall as Sawant took up the cause to “save Saba.”

Developer Alchemy Real Estate and Isola Homes are lined up to demolish the property and create a six-story, 289-unit apartment building with commercial space and 11 “Live-Work Units,” plus underground parking for 230 vehicles. The property has been under the ownership of a family trust but the developer is lined up to purchase the land. The 9,000 square-foot building Saba has called home dates to 1940. It is unlikely to qualify for landmarks protections, according to a City of Seattle assessment.

Teklegiorgis says the fight isn’t about staying at the restaurant’s longtime location but about giving the restaurant more time while displacement resources including financial support and help finding a new lease are lined up to assist.

In the meantime, she says, Saba remains open.

The eviction notice for Saba comes as Seattle is stepping up efforts to encourage owners with properties lined up for development to keep the buildings in use or make sure they don’t become neighborhood safety issues with squatters and drug use by increasing and expanding inspections and vacant building monitoring fees.

In response to the eviction notice, Sawant’s city council office issued a letter calling on Alchemy “to immediately rescind the eviction notice, and begin negotiations with Mrs. Wubushet and her family on what specific assistance you will provide to ensure the restaurant’s relocation to a suitable new site in the neighborhood.”

“This kind of unacceptable conduct comes on top of the systematic gentrification that’s facing working families and small businesses in District 3 and the city, while corporations like yours make profits,” the letter reads.”

CHS repeatedly reached out to a representative for Alchemy Real Estate about the situation with Saba and received no response.

Teklegiorgis, meanwhile, is asking people to sign a petition in support of the restaurant.

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8 thoughts on “Saba, 12th Ave restaurant at center of Sawant displacement fight, set for eviction” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

    • Does she ever champion a cause that doesn’t involve fighting, screaming, and protesting? Something routine and uncontroversial. Does she do this all the time, and I just don’t read anything about it? Or is she only interested in things that involve a fight?

  1. A restaurant that has to move, in exchange for 289 apartments, and Sawant doesn’t want it to happen? I guess she’s against creating more housing….

    • No one says that she doesn’t want housing. Even though it will not be affordable, it is about keep community and business open.

      • No one says that she doesn’t want housing. Even though it will not be affordable, it is about keeping community and businesses open. Not evicting them with no place to go and no plan for relocation.

  2. It was public knowledge in March of 2018 that the block that Saba resides in was slated for development (a friend and I were looking for spaces for a business back then). We even alerted the owner of Saba but she said she did not know. Maybe, had she been looking for a new place back then, she could have avoided the trouble she is in now.

      • I am so sad to just discover this! My family lives 30+ miles past Tacoma, we come to Seattle for Saba Ethiopian. We were going to drive there today for my husband’s birthday and saw this showed permanently closed on Yelp. I would be really happy if this business comes back in a new location, however at the rate costs are going up in Seattle this would have to be outside the city. I don’t think there is any other Ethiopian option as good as this restaurant in Washington.