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AT&T pulls the plug on its Capitol Hill ‘Lounge’ retail experiment and Ada’s Discovery Cafe

The AT&T Lounge and Ada’s Discovery Cafe (Image: CHS)

Telecommunications giant AT&T has ended its Capitol Hill experiment. The Lounge by AT&T and Ada’s Discovery Cafe will not reopen as COVID-19 restrictions are slowly lifted.

“With more customers shopping online, we are closing a small percentage of our retail stores to reflect our customers’ shopping practices,” Jim Kimberly, director of corporate communications for AT&T, tells CHS. “While these plans are not new, they have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ada’s owner Danielle Hulton confirmed the closure, telling CHS that AT&T’s decision to shutter the store meant the end of the cafe.

CHS reported opening of the AT&T retail and cafe concept in September 2018. The E Thomas venue in new construction just off Broadway combined a coffee shop with local owners paired with an AT&T store, plus service and product showcase. The unusual pairing added an even more unusual twist last October when AT&T opted to transform the space into a replica of the set of the Friends television show as part of marketing for promotions for the program’s 25th anniversary.

The closure could make it even more difficult to find a table as Capitol Hill coffee shops reopen. Along this stretch of Broadway, Cafe Solstice exited the area last fall to make way for an expansion of the Urban Animal veterinary clinic.

For Capitol Hill-born Ada’s, the partnership with AT&T represented a low-risk, high-reward opportunity for their coffee and cafe ambitions, Hulton told CHS at the time.

The Discovery Cafe closing comes as Ada’s is growing this summer through an acquisition of the small Fuel Coffee chain including locations on 19th Ave E and Montlake. Hulton said thanks to the Fuel shops reopening, Ada’s has been able to offer the Discovery Cafe employees new positions with Fuel. She also said expect more news to come soon for the Ada’s and Fuel family of businesses.

As for AT&T, the retail experiment ends amid a tide of economic uncertainty surrounding the current pandemic. So far, closures of businesses here on Capitol Hill have been limited.

Capitol Hill and Central District COVID-19 Crisis Closures: CHS has tried to confirm all reported statuses. Please let us know if any information needs to be updated -- LAST UPDATED: 10/14/20

Food and drink

  • Suika, lease issues, announced 9/27/2020
  • Juicebox Cafe, announced 9/28/20
  • Heritage Distilling Capitol Hill, announced 9/25/20
  • Amandine, closing 9/30/20 announced 9/25/20
  • Bar Sue, announced 9/25/20
  • Marination Station, announced 9/14/20
  • Ha Na, announced 8/27/20
  • Intrigue Coffeehouse, announced 8/21/20
  • Nates Wings & Waffles, Happy Grillmore and the Central District Ice Cream Company, announced 8/6/20
  • Americana, Broadway, announced 7/23/20
  • The Lounge by AT&T and Ada’s Discovery Cafe, E Thomas, announced 7/7/20
  • Bill's Off Broadway, E Pine, announced 6/24/20
  • Stumptown, 12th Ave, announced 5/26/20
  • Adana, 15th and Pine, announced 5/21/20
  • Tougo, 18th and Union, announced early April, Yesler location remains open
  • My Thai, 10th Ave E, closed but we're not sure when it shuttered

Retail and more

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16 thoughts on “AT&T pulls the plug on its Capitol Hill ‘Lounge’ retail experiment and Ada’s Discovery Cafe” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

    • It was actually nicely done, the AT&T part didn’t feel like a regular AT&T store, more like a concept store. The whole concept was visually pleasing, high-end looking.

      • Same here. I loved this place.

        It was quiet, great for meeting friends — and the Ada’s staff were super thoughtful and wonderful.

  1. I often wonder how places like this can make it work financially. Their customers mainly seem to be people on their laptops, taking advantage of the WiFi, and nursing one cup of coffee for hours.

    • From what I read, the reason for closure is not related to how successful the coffee shop part was. I always found the combination odd, and I rarely saw an AT&T (wanna-be) customer walk in. In regards to people camping out with their laptops, I thought they positioned it as a kind of co-working space. The coffee service was also not the fastest (very crafty) which didn’t attract walk-ins alongside people camping out.

  2. After Roy Street closed this was really the last coffee shop on the hill where there was enough room and it was quiet enough to have a conversation with someone or read or even work. Also, the coffee was fantastic and 50% off, so you can’t really beat that. The AT&T part of it wasn’t really intrusive so much, in the many times I went there I was never once approached by a sales person.

    • Ya if you could get a seat where you didn’t have to look at any of the att garbage, the Ada’s aspect of it was great.

      I think what att failed to realized was that people went there in spite of the att, not because of it, and I hope Ada’s can find a new location where they don’t be a gimmicky tool for some evil corporation.

      • I assumed it was because Starbucks wanted to focus on the Reserve. Didn’t they close or rebrand their other pretend-indie coffeeshop on 15th, too?

    • Although less cozy, I’ve found that the atmosphere in Realfine on Pine is quiet and very nice for reading, working, and sketching. The coffee is great, too. When things are closer to normal, I totally recommend them.

  3. I was skeptical of the pairing when this opened, but after visiting it a few times, I really came to like it. The coffee, pastries, and baristas were all great and the AT&T presence didn’t really impact me. Like iluvcaphill, I was never approached by anyone. I was just glad to have an Ada’s closer to me, especially after Solstice closed.

  4. H202’s move was unrelated to the COVID shutdown. Chris already had the 55th Street space as of the last time I was in her shop in March and was planning to move in June; she’s open for business on 55th now.

  5. Wow, I didn’t know about Bills off Broadway – it even survived the new building construction/relocation/reopening! That’s so rare. And I am already mourning Le Frock. I’ve picked up so many interesting pieces there over the years.

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