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Lease issues mean Chungee’s long lion dance on 12th Ave coming to an end

Owners Tom Farrell and Wen Long at one of Chungee’s many lion dance events over the years (Image: CHS)

Born with a lion dance and a line of exploding firecrackers, the much-loved Capitol Hill Chinese restaurant and tavern Chungee’s is closing at the end of 2019, only a month or so short of its tenth anniversary on 12th Ave.

“We don’t make a lot of money out of it,” owner and head of the Chungee’s kitchen Wen Long tells CHS about the end of the restaurant. “But we make a lot of friendships.”

“We have a great group of employees — some with us from the beginning,” Tom Farrell said.

The couple tells CHS the decision to close comes after unsuccessful discussions with the family that has owned the 1906 building home to Chungee’s and two upstairs flats for decades. Farrell said the hope was for Chungee’s to establish a new, longterm lease to remain at the corner of 12th and Denny but that the family trust that owns the property preferred a month to month tenant to allow them more flexibility with the structure’s future.


IT'S NEARLY THE END OF 2019! YOU'VE BEEN MEANING TO! SUBSCRIBE TO KEEP CHS GOING INTO 2020! EXCLAMATION! The holidays are busy times when we typically lose subscribers. We need your help. Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE TODAY. Join to become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with NO PAYWALL. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment. CHS currently has just over 800 subscribers! That's a lot! But we need more. Why support CHS? More here.


Owned by a trust for the Bischofberger Violins family, there are no plans on record for any planned development on the corner and no record of any sale at this time.

Properties held by family trusts are becoming an increasing rarity on the Hill as the lucrative market for development has continued and the generations holding the properties grow and move on from longtime family holdings.

This area of 12th Ave, meanwhile, is ripe for more change. Just down the block at 12th and Olive, the Car Tender property is being lined up for a major mixed-use development.

Chungee’s Drink and Eat replaced Esmeralda at the corner of Denny and 12th. Esmeralda’s owner Robert Abergel, who sold his equipment and lease to Chungee’s, told CHS back then he hoped the Hill would support the new restaurant. “I’d like them to patronize these new people. The only food I eat out is oriental. There is an art to it and this woman is very, very talented,” Abergel told CHS.

The first time restaurateurs opened Chungee’s in February 2010 with a lion dance celebration that has become a Lunar New Year tradition at the 12th Ave establishment. This year as Capitol Hill counts down to the calendar New Year, Long and Farrell say they will be there to continue cooking and pouring strong drinks even as the days of goodbye tick down.

“It’s been family for us,” Farrell said. “We’ve made more friends there than anything.”

Farrells said he’ll still have his “day job” to keep him busy. Long, after a decade in the kitchen, said, while she is sad to see Chungee’s go, she is also looking forward to a break.

“To be honest, I enjoy cooking for Capitol Hill people,” Long said. But, she adds, “I kind of want to take a couple months off and think about it.”

After a winter break, that thinking might grow into something, the couple says. In their announcement of the planned December closure, they say there just might be a return of Chungee’s:

Stop by over the holidays for some drink and eat or just to say hello!
We love each and everyone of you!!❤️
…and stay tuned!

If you’re lucky, you might someday again get to enjoy some Yum Yum Chicken. Stay tuned.

Chungee’s is planned to be open through December at 1830 12th Ave. You can learn more at facebook.com/Chungees.


IT'S NEARLY THE END OF 2019! YOU'VE BEEN MEANING TO! SUBSCRIBE TO KEEP CHS GOING INTO 2020! EXCLAMATION! The holidays are busy times when we typically lose subscribers. We need your help. Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE TODAY. Join to become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with NO PAYWALL. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment. CHS currently has just over 800 subscribers! That's a lot! But we need more. Why support CHS? More here.


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6 thoughts on “Lease issues mean Chungee’s long lion dance on 12th Ave coming to an end

  1. BUMMER.

    The funky space, cool bartenders and neighborhood vibe made this one of my favorite hidden gems on the Hill.

    Of course, the building’s wealthy owners could care less about the families and neighbors from all backgrounds who have enjoyed this gathering spot for many years. I hope they reconsider and at least offer something more than a month-to-month lease.

    So sad.

  2. Sad that this is happening. And puzzling to me, owing to how much support and help the Bischofberger family received from the small businesses around them after the fire that damaged their store/workshop a few years back. One would like to think that they might, on reflection, reconsider.

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