Walking into Canon is surely a different experience than before. As 12th Ave’s food and drink scene slowly reopens, the bar has taken a more retail-oriented approach, transforming into a walk-in general store and online “Whiskey and Bitters Emporium.”
In early May, Washington’s liquor and cannabis board temporarily legalized takeout cocktails, when purchased with food, in addition to allowing sealed bottleservice. As per the state’s reopening plan, King County restaurants and bars began opening at limited capacity in June (now allowed 50% indoor and outdoor occupancy in Phase 2), but Gov. Inslee recently tightened restaurant and tavern guidelines, prohibiting bar seating and live music.
Canon owner Jamie Boudreau made the decision not to reopen at limited capacity based on the bar’s smaller size combined with the uncertainty of the coming months.
“I’ve been told by pretty much everyone across the nation that take-out was difficult and not profitable, but I had to give it a try in order to hope to outlast the shutdowns and our government’s bungled response to the pandemic,” Boudreau said over email. “With the 6′ rule in place, we can’t have more than 12 people inside, and I’m not sure how to make that work without losing more money than just being closed.”
The bar is offering service two ways — a walk-up takeout window with booze and ready-to-eat meals available for online pre-order and a walk-in mercantile selling glassware, booze, limited entrees to accompany alcohol purchases and more. The online menu is more expansive with entrees like avocado toast, crab rolls and fried chicken, and speciality cocktails like the Bourbon Dynasty (bourbon, lillet, blackcurrant and bitters) and Jungle Bird (rums, campari, fresh lime and pineapple juice).
Back in March when Canon temporarily closed in accordance with the state mandate, the bar transitioned into serving free meals to the community and staff, as Boudreau says selling bottles without being able to sell takeout cocktails was not financially viable for Canon.
Many factors have proven challenging in redesigning Canon’s business model, Boudreau says — from setting up the online order system to time spent packaging cocktails and dealing with lawsuits from suppliers for no longer needing “the services that were being provided” when Canon functioned as a restaurant and bar.
“Combine that with the fact that the ‘staff’ consists of myself and the chef, you can imagine how difficult it has been to execute a menu that we were never designed to do, in addition to a mercantile, given that I’ve never worked in retail,” he said.
As for the future of dining-in at Canon, Boudreau hopes to host speciality dinners with themes like “vintage whiskey dinner” in the fall. For now, the mercantile is up and running.
“I am a workhorse and have only averaged about five days off/year for the last decade, but this is taxing physically, mentally and emotionally in a way that I’ve never experienced,” he said.
Canon is open 5 to 8 PM Tuesday through Saturday at 928 12th Ave. You can learn more at canonseattle.com.
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