A pandemic habit that could stick: Capitol Hill to-go cocktails and beer delivery until 2023

The Tipsy Cat at Cook Weaver (Image: Cook Weaver)

Masks in crowded public places. Working on your couch. And cocktails to go.

It’s hard to say what habits of the pandemic will stay with us but Capitol Hill bars, breweries, and restaurants that invested in takeout cocktails and beer delivery will be happy to know they can continue to offer off-premises booze into 2023.

The new law passed in the just completed session in Olympia gives state liquor license holders a two year window to adjust as the new habits set in after months of COVID-19 restrictions reshaped the way we dine out. Continue reading

At height of Seattle’s surge in pandemic booze sales, Capitol Hill Safeway nailed for selling to minors

A sign tells part of the story at the 15th and John Safeway

A sign tells part of the story at the 15th and John Safeway (Image: CHS)

Just when the neighborhoods around 15th and John apparently needed it most, the liquor aisle inside this Capitol Hill Safeway is off-limits.

How does a major grocery chain lose its license to sell booze in the middle of Seattle’s pandemic-driven surge in alcohol sales?

The grocery store has had its alcohol retailer license temporarily suspended from May 7 through 22. To keep customers away from the alcohol aisle, the shop has barricaded the entrances with stacks of chips and other goods.

According to Julie Graham of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, the temporary suspension resulted from sales violation, the store’s third reported violation in sales to minors over a two-year period.

“If there were further violations in the future, the consequences would likely be more severe because certainly with increased violations comes increased sanctions,” Graham said.  Continue reading

Building the Gig Harbor – Roslyn – Ballard – Capitol Hill food+drink continuum, Heritage Distilling plans spring opening on 10th Ave

Anybody afraid of Capitol Hill becoming part of one big Seattle monoculture should know — it’s too late. There is already a food+drink continuum between Ballard and Capitol Hill. Add another. Heritage Distilling, lined up to open a new “tasting room, retail store and Cask Club” on the backside of Pike/Pine in the Central Agency building, is mirroring the effort with a NW Market St. doppelganger also planned to open later this year.

CHS included the Hill Heritage project on our roster of 20+ Capitol Hill bars and restaurants to look forward to in 2018 though its space has been partially overhauled and used as an events space since the Gig Harbor-based company took over the former sandwich shop space in the restored auto row-era building also home to Lark. Continue reading

Aged five years, Sun Liquor and OOLA are still pioneers of Capitol Hill spirits

Kirby Kallas-Lewis (Image: Alex Garland)

Kirby Kallas-Lewis (Image: Alex Garland)

In 2011, OOLA and Sun Liquor both fired up Capitol Hill’s first legal stills, launching the post-Prohibition era of neighborhood-made spirits. Five years later, the two businesses are growing, but while new coffee and beer production operations continue to open around Capitol Hill, new distilleries have not.

Huge startup expenses, navigating a restrictive legal framework, and high state taxes can be daunting barriers to entry despite the seemingly insatiable demand for craft cocktails and spirits.

“We keep trying to get parity with beer and wine,” said OOLA owner Kirby Kallas-Lewis. “A lot of people do their due diligence and they find out it’s not worth it.”

In 2008, the state legislature relented slightly by passing a craft distillery law, which made small batch distilling a viable business by lowering minimum production requirements. The state went from one distiller to over 100 by 2015. With few mentors in the local industry, Sun Liquor head distiller Erik Chapman said trial by fire was the primary learning tool.

“In five years we have learned so much, and most of it the old fashioned way. Everything from packaging issues, equipment failures, shipping disasters, flooding, you name it.” he said. “There’s no handbook for this business.” Continue reading

CHS Pics | Portland invader takes Speed Rack Seattle title

Teta, left, and Pugsley, right, await the decision (Images: Suzi Pratt for CHS)

Teta, left, and Pugsley, right, await the decision (Images: Suzi Pratt for CHS)

Champ -- and Portland invader -- Teta

Champ — and Portland invader — Teta

Women quick with the wrist and a twist battled head to head Sunday as a fourth season of the Speed Rack “speed bartending” competition came to Seattle and attracted a big crowd to the Century Ballroom while raising money to fight breast cancer.

Southern archenemy Angel Teta, representing Portland’s Ataula, defeated our hometown hero Holly Pugsley, representing Anchovies and Olives and Tallulah’s, in the final round and will move on to the national finals in June in New York.

The annual event pits tenders from around the state — some from exotic locales like Portland thanks to “the 40 Creek Canadian Whiskey Scholarship which helps out-of-state bartenders, who do not have a local Speed Rack, enter the competition in other cities,” a spokesperson tells us. Like NASCAR racers, the corporate sponsorships run thick for Speed Rack contestants but it’s also a fun day to see some of your favorite locals show off on stage.Bartending-11

Here are the top 8 qualifiers from the Season 4 bouts in Seattle. Well played!
1.       Jennifer Aileen Akin – Oliver’s Twist, Magnolia
2.       Bridget Maloney – Witness
3.       Kathleen Manley – Rob Roy
4.       Kate Perry – Rumba
5.       Holly Pugsley – Anchovies and Olives, Tallulah’s
6.       Roxanne Siebert – The Republik, Honolulu, Hawaii
7.       Angel Teta – Ataula, Portland, Oregon
8.       Mindy Kucan – Hale Pele, Portland, Oregon

Organizers say more than 400 people attended Sunday’s event.

You can learn more at speed-rack.com.

Celebrate at Sun Liquor’s first ever Nog Ball as Hill distillery’s eggnog hits the big time

SOLD OUT :( Sorry for not posting sooner but the flood of news this week delayed a few stories… including this one. We’re assuming those who REALLY REALLY care about nog already heard through the, um, nog vine. We’ll ask Sun about the possibilities for any smaller noggy events. You can always stop in and get a glass. Or two.

Nogmeister Chapman in simpler times... 2013 (Image: Sun Liquor)

Nogmeister Chapman in simpler times… 2013 (Image: Sun Liquor)

We refuse to be impressed until they have a contract to serve eggnog minis on Alaska Airlines.

But how about a round of seasonal applause for Capitol Hill’s own Sun Liquor as the distillery takes its nog big time. Here’s the fancy press release:

Sun Liquor has partnered with Total Wine & More to offer retail sales of Sun Liquor’s much-loved Aged Eggnog to consumers for the first time ever. Continue reading

SunBreak | Tracking prices in liquor stores large and small

Since the beginning of privatized liquor sales in Washington last June—for the first time since Prohibition—the question on everyone’s lips has been: Where are the cheaper prices we were promised?

Remember stories like this? “The owners of Shanahan’s Pub in Vancouver say they fully support 1183, because it will mean they can buy liquor at cheaper prices, and pass those savings on to their customers,” reported KOIN TV in 2011.

Despite public approval for Initiative 1183 in the early days, there were those who disliked it from the beginning. “Like a lot of craft distillers, Kent Fleischmann, co-owner of Dry Fly Distilling in Spokane, will vote against I-1183. He worries that prices for Dry Fly’s vodka and gin could be driven much higher by retailer and distributor markups, plus new fees imposed by the initiative. He figures a 750-milliliter bottle of gin and vodka could rise from $29.95 to $40, a daunting prospect,” reported the Seattle Times.

Unfortunately for Fleischmann (and the liquor buyers of Washington) his prediction turned out to be correct. A 750-milliliter bottle of Dry Fly gin is now regularly priced $34.99 at one upper-scale Seattle grocery store, or $44.99 with tax.

Still, another question remains: Do certain stores, large or small, chain or independent, sell liquor at better prices than others? Continue reading