Another rash of Seattle institutions close to 'relentless' development

Image 1 of 18

The Guild 45 in Wallingford, which was Seattle’s oldest continually operating theatre since 1919. (It was originally called The Paramount before the current Paramount in downtown Seattle was built.)

SEATTLE, Wash. — A new string of closures among Seattle institutions may be another testament in a disappearing aspect of our city.

It’s no secret among Seattle residents -- lifers and transplants alike -- that the city’s growth boom is pushing mom-and-pop businesses out of the city. But that doesn’t make easier for the local owners impacted by high rents and a surge of redevelopment.

The latest round of closures: The People’s Pub in Ballard, Charlie's in Capitol Hill, and The Guild 45 in Wallingford, which was Seattle’s oldest continually operating theater since 1919. It was originally called The Paramount before the current Paramount in downtown Seattle was built.

Also, the iconic Two Bells on a Belltown corner could soon be acquired for a high-rise and mixed-use space. And SPUD Fish & Chips in Green Lake announced its butterfly-roof building would be demolished for apartments, though the restaurant plans to re-open in the first floor.

One Seattle tour guide called the development "relentless," as Seattle tops out as the nation's fastest-growing big city, with population exceeding 700,000 people and tech communities making the city a powerhouse for technology development.

After a rash of closures in 2015 – including Champion Party Supply and the Moon Temple, across the street from the Guild 45th -- KIRO 7 News talked to owners about the homegrown fight to keep business local.

Scroll down to keep reading. 

Management at waterfront staple Highway 99 Blues Club expressed shock when rent was raised $10,000 a month by a new building owner.

"It is an eviction notice,” said Ed Maloney, one of the owners. “You can't sustain it. The business was just hanging in there just as it was with the construction out front even still recovering through the recession. What's being hurt is music art cultural preservation of the city."

Thousands of restaurant-goers and shoppers share the sentiment of Seattle losing part of its soul when these decades-long establishments shut down.

It's why Seattle-native Cynthia Brothers turned to Facebook and Instagram to chronicle the rapid changes in the Emerald City.

Thousands follow Brothers' "Vanishing Seattle" account, which has evolved to something more than documenting lost businesses.

“I think for me the goals are to build awareness and dialogue around issues of development and gentrification and displacement," she told KIRO Radio last year. “I view nostalgia as productive. It reminds people of what formed us, who we were in a specific time and place ... Our historical context.”

Here’s a list of beloved Seattle businesses or business locations that have closed since 2003.

  • Chubby and Tubby (2003)
  • Sorry Charlie's (2003)
  • The Bon Marche (became Macy's in 2005)
  • Waterfront streetcars (2005)
  • Leilani Lanes (2006)
  • Aqua Dive (2006)
  • Sunset Bowl (2008)
  • Washington Mutual (2008)
  • Seattle P-I (2009)
  • Fourth of Jul-Ivar's fireworks over Elliott Bay (2009)
  • Buckaroo Tavern (2010)
  • Lusty Lady (2010)
  • Angie's Tavern (2010)
  • Seattle Center Fun Forest (2010)
  • Elliott Bay Book Company (Pioneer Square location, 2010, moved to Capitol Hill)
  • Red Robin's Eastlake location (the first, closed in 2010)
  • Roy's BBQ (2011)
  • Rimrock Steak House (2011)
  • The Neptune Theatre (closed for movies, stayed open for concerts and events, 2011)
  • Barnes & Noble at University Village (2011)
  • Charlestown Street Café (2011)
  • Zesto's (2012)
  • Easy Street Records Queen Anne location (2013)
  • Silver Fork (2013)
  • Paseo (2014)
  • Azteca in Market Street in Ballard (2014)
  • Harvard Exit (2014)
  • Piecora's Pizza (2014)
  • Louie's (2014)
  • Champion Party Supply's Denny Way location (2015, move from Pike Place Market location in 1994)
  • Car Toys on Denny Way (2015)
  • Kingfish Café (2015)
  • Hurricane Café (2015, The Doghouse in 1994)
  • Old Spaghetti Factory, waterfront location (2016)
  • Icon Grill (2016)
  • Tini Bigs (2016)
  • Toshi's Teriyaki across from Northgate (2016)
  • Café Minnie's building (2016)
  • Mama's Mexican Kitche (transitioned to Mama's Cantina, 2016)
  • Rain City Video (2017)
  • The Wurst Place (2017)
  • Half Price Books in the University District (2017)
  • F.X. McRory's (2017, but moving to a new location)
  • People's Pub (2017)
  • Charlie's (2017)
  • Guild 45th Theatre (2017)

Washington native and longtime Seattle resident Tim Egan, a New York Times journalist, also highlighted the speedy change in Seattle in a column last year.

"I welcome the newcomers who challenge the civic xenophobia of the natives," Egan wrote. "I'm proud to share a hometown with a philanthropy attempting to give away more money than any private entity has ever tried to do. … But I also wonder if there is any way to slow or mitigate the pace of change, to ensure that the city's soul is not swept out by the new. How do you contain the excesses of entrepreneurial capitalism and nurture the things you like — original music, food, businesses and literature, affordable homes for cops and Kramers? Unfettered growth just produces more inequality. So does taxing the middle class to death."

Even the city has waded into the worry. City Councilwoman Lisa Herbold, in response to publicized potential closures in Belltown a couple of years ago, issued a public survey looking for opinions on "Legacy Businesses" in Seattle, intimating that maybe some Seattle shops should preserved from development threat. But as of this March, Herbold was still waiting for a study looking at the recommendations for the size of the program and how it would be funded.

KIRO Radio contributed to this report.