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Joe Bar closing after 25 years of community, coffee, crepes, and art on Capitol Hill — UPDATE

(Image: Joe Bar)

 

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With it from the first day it opened just off Broadway along leafy E Roy in the historic Loveless Building, Wylie Bush is now ready for Joe Bar to rest. Bush announced the much loved cafe will close later this month after 25 years of coffee, crepes, and art on Capitol Hill.

CHS will have more from Bush soon on the decisions and timing behind the closure. In the announcement posted to social media, the guy who helped run the cafe from the first minutes it opened in 1997 and took over ownership three years later says, no, he didn’t really own Joe Bar.

“While it’s technically true that I own Joe Bar–my name is on the lease, and closing is solely my decision–the reality is this place belongs to the people of Capitol Hill,” Bush writes. “Since I took over ownership 22 years ago (!!!), I’ve operated Joe Bar more as a community service than a typical business, for better or worse.”

“Anyone who’s been to Joe Bar knows how rare and special it is, and I’m telling you now that it’s always been the people who love it who make it that way,” Bush said.

The last day of service is planned for Wednesday, October 26th. UPDATE 10/18/2022: Joe Bar has updated its schedule and is now planning a Tuesday, October 25th final day of service.

UPDATE: Bush tells CHS that the closure comes as Joe Bar’s latest lease was expiring and there are no plans to reopen or sell the business but declined to comment on the situation or the cafe’s landlord at this time.

It seems clear this isn’t how Bush envisioned Joe Bar’s run on Capitol Hill ending. For now, he mostly feels grateful.

“I have huge gratitude to the staff. The staff I have on now has been with us from before COVID,” Bush said

And he has immediately felt the void of leaving it behind. “Heartbreaking,” Bush said. “I already miss the community.”

The things Joe Bar provided like community space for gathering and art, “people need that shit,” Bush says.

Bush needs it, too. But he has already begun moving on. He has two children to raise and “needed something more stable” than a well-loved coffee shop.

“People assume when you have a restaurant that you are really wealthy. And you are like, ‘Not really,'” Bush quips.

You might see him again soon — on the side of a road. He is now working as a land surveyor part of his strategy, he said, “to get paid to walk around outside.”

Original report: The cafe is a Capitol Hill pandemic business survivor, of course, and Joe Bar also kept it cool and didn’t break a sweat when coffee giant Starbucks conducted a ten-year experiment in faux-independent coffee just up E Roy. Roy Street Coffee finally gave up the ghost in 2019. Self-pour joint Rapport now holds down that giant space.

Bush in 2013 (Image: CHS)

But its home in the 1930-built Loveless Building is set to undergo change.

After decades of family ownership — the Toliases were also owners of downtown’s Lusty Lady building, the 16,899-square-foot Loveless building and its collection of food and drink and retail spaces including Joe Bar, Cook/Weaver, and Kobo plus nine apartment units have been put up for sale for $13.75 million in a listing from the Yates Wood real estate firm.

There is no new construction or development paperwork for the property and King County doesn’t show any records of a deal for the property, yet. Located within the Harvard-Belmont Landmark District, any significant changes to the building must be approved by a public process.

The coming closure of Joe Bar, meanwhile, could end up as the cut of a final tie between a community-focused business owner and the neighborhood. Last year, Bush talked with CHS about his decision to close Joe Bar’s palindromic sibling Cafe Barjot on nearby Bellevue Ave E as Bush’s life was focusing more on family and life outside the city.

Change for a Capitol Hill small business owner is part of the venture. Sometimes change means shutting down. CHS reported here on the decision to close Kedai Makan after a decade as owners Kevin Burzell and Alysson Wilson decided to end the business on their terms and put the restaurant up for sale.

As October fades, Joe Bar is also ending things as it lived with plans for a group art show featuring 38 artists titled, fittingly enough, “The End.”

Joe Bar is located at 810 E Roy and will hold a closing party October 14th before its final day of business on the 26th. Learn more at joebarseattle.com.

 

 

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genevieve
genevieve
1 month ago

no. just no.

infinite sadness.

Thank you Wylie and all the great Joe Bar staff through the years for an amazing spot that has endured many changes in the neighborhood and the city.

m.mariano
m.mariano
1 month ago

Someone in the neighborhood, please find a way to keep this going. The shop space is fabulously unique, the loft, the tree canopy outside, the intimacy of it all. There’s a lot of great indy cafes around, but it would be unfortunate to lose this one.

Pilly
Pilly
1 month ago
Reply to  m.mariano

It would really be disgusting to see the Loveless building demolished in favor of a cheap megabox, and the trees pulverized along with it.

SeattleGeek
SeattleGeek
1 month ago

Joe Bar was great when you could get a seat but it was always packed. I loved getting a coffee there when I went to the Harvard Exit (also RIP). It’s such a cozy space that was perfect for spring and fall vibes.

d.c.
d.c.
1 month ago

Just awful. A staple of the neighborhood in so many ways — good food, good coffee, good art, good people, just amazing for so long. I’ve been hanging out there half my life.

I truly hope that whoever ends up owning the building will not gouge the current tenants and maybe the community can put together a shade of what Joe Bar offered this part of Capitol Hill.

iris daines
iris daines
1 month ago

I can’t believe this is happening! if I could, I would by joe bar, bet I definitely don’t have the money!

Matt
Matt
1 month ago

Sad news.

Also, Cafe Barjot is not a palindrome.

Gelky
Gelky
1 month ago

This was my home away from home, my hangout, sometimes my employer, the place I went to when sad, happy, alone or with loved ones. I was born nearby and really hoped I would be able to have my last breaths sitting at an outside table in front of Joe Bar in some sort of dramatic Seattle light, looking at the trees and the far white glimmer of the Olympics. Good bye Joe Bar. I will remember you forever.

Mark MacIntyre
Mark MacIntyre
1 month ago

There should be a statue of Wylie erected in front of the Loveless Building! The Joe Bar has been a north Broadway gem & amenity for a good long while….Many thanks to him and his staff for providing the neighborhood with tasty crepes, baked treats and impeccable espresso! Thanks Wylie, for making Capitol Hill decidedly nicer!

Pete
Pete
1 month ago

Am much as I love joe bar, the true star is still the loveless building, it’s architect also understood the need to own his own business premises to protect himself from landlords.

CH KL
CH KL
1 month ago

So sad! And with the loss of Harvard Exit, plus Cornish moving students out of Kerry Hall, it seems like this last little holdout is finally dispersing.

FNH
FNH
1 month ago

Heartbreaking. And if any location proves the point that building design has a profound impact on people and neighborhoods, it is this one.

Michael Wells
Michael Wells
1 month ago

Thank you for everything, Wylie. You and the crew at at Joe Bar are a Capitol Hill treasure. Thank you for all of the wonderful memories. Joe Bar is a prime example of what a business truly invested in community can look like. We are all so lucky to have had it in our lives. Best of luck in everything.