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Born in the Year of the Dog, Pike/Pine’s Sheng Xiao-themed East Trading Co. closes

Seattle food and drink entrepreneur I-Miun Liu can move slowly, intentionally in his work to create crafted, detail-filled experiences like East Trading Co. But it didn’t take him long to decide to pull the plug on the Capitol Hill bar.

The Chinese zodiac-inspired watering hole styled by the eclectic designers at Electric Coffin closed over the weekend just a little more than a year after it opened last September after months of buildout transforming the old Sun Liquor Distillery space on E Pike.

Liu, who is also part of the Oasis bubble tea chain and the Central District’s small-batch Raised Doughnuts, tells the Seattle Met the pull of his other projects and a feeling that “doing business in Seattle is a lot more difficult than it used to be” were behind his decision to shutter on Capitol Hill.

“We are sad that we were not able to make East Trading a staple on the Hill, but we are looking forward to future adventures,” the Instagram announcement marking the closure reads. You can still catch Liu’s cocktail stylings at the Dynasty Room pop–up in the International District through the end of January.

East Trading Co. opened with Sheng Xiao-themed cocktails and small plates designed to accompany them in the space left empty when the distillery finally gave up on crowded Pike/Pine to spread out in a new space near University Village. Liu said his first concept for the space was to create a “doughnut bar” but that took a backseat to opening Raised on 23rd Ave. He is known for his methodical pace. CHS reported on his first Capitol Hill project, the E Pine Oasis Tea Zonewhen it opened in 2016 and set a “record” by debuting “two years and two days after CHS first wrote about the project taking shape.” East Trading had a total turnaround of somewhere just under two years.

While Liu’s openings might be methodical and Seattle’s business environment a growing challenge, he’s been nimble thus far. Faced with Seattle’s ban on plastic straws, the bubble tea and bar entrepreneur Liu started a compostable supply company.

Doughnuts, meanwhile, were still in the cards for the block. Half and Half Doughnut opened last month in the neighboring part of the old distillery space. Maybe there is still a chance for a Capitol Hill doughnut bar to be born next door.

Liu’s advice for any would-be Pike/Pine bar owners? “I would say that business is hard no matter how busy a neighborhood is,” he tells CHS. “Don’t spread yourself too thin, and make sure all your internal processes are in place before you open.”

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6 thoughts on “Born in the Year of the Dog, Pike/Pine’s Sheng Xiao-themed East Trading Co. closes

  1. I hope the city is starting to figure out that the regulatory & tax burdens it puts on businesses mostly impacts small, innovative neighborhood operations like this one.

    The big guys and chains have all kinds of resources to absorb these ever-increasing costs. The small guys don’t.

    I hope Liu is able to make his next venture pencil-out, because he’s creating a uniquely Seattle experience that the generic “craft cocktail” scene does not.

    • …or not enough people cared about this particular concept. That, greedy landlords, and high failure rate in the restaurant and bar industry are more to blame. If the regulatory and tax burdens were so bad, International District, where he still has his original business, would be a ghost town and he wouldn’t have been able to expand his operation in the first place.

      • Well, that was one very bad example and a terribly weak resulting argument.

        Do you know how many International District businesses follow the $15 minimum wage law? Vastly less than half. Do you know how many small mom & pop businesses in Chinatown adhere to the city’s new employee scheduling regulations? Virtually none of them do.

        You want to see plastic utensiles, plastic straws and foam clamshell containers? Chinatown’s got ’em all. Want some single-use plastic bags from the grocery store? Over half of the city’s ethnic grocery stores still have them, eight years after the law passed

        The reality is a pretty simple one in Chinatown and in other ethnic & immigrant enclaves: the more regs and taxes the government passes, the more people work under the table, avoid all taxes and worker safety regs – because more staff (esp family members) will be simply be taken off the books.

        In other words, it’s not just the cheaper rents. Also, the ID has its share of “greedy” landlords.

      • Where did I say it was just rents? The very first sentence of my response: not enough people cared about this particular concept. And what was so weak about the argument that there is a high failure rate in the restaurant and bar industry?

        You said “The big guys and chains have all kinds of resources to absorb these ever-increasing cost. The small guys don’t.” But yet, you just pointed out how the small businesses in International District don’t follow minimum wage laws and other regulations that may increase operating costs. So what is it? Can mom-and-pop afford to stay in the game or not?

        What makes you think this guy is not unscrupulous like you claim most busineses in International District are? If he cut corners and his Capitol Hill bar still couldn’t make it, then maybe regulatory and tax burdens weren’t the biggest causes of its failure.

  2. The food at East Trading Co. was good and the drinks were good and the atmosphere was good. It had a lot of the pieces. But I found myself never remembering to go there, and I only live a block away. Sometimes I remembered to go there and it was closed for whatever reason, which was discouraging. I think it needed to be marketed better, and it needed to maintain more normal hours.

  3. A few weeks ago they got their liquor license suspended for like a week, and I don’t even think they bothered opening during that time. They must have been hemorrhaging money during that time, so no wonder if it put them out of business.