Homelessness blamed for demise of iconic coffee shop

SEATTLE — An iconic coffee shop in Lower Queen Anne has closed its doors.

The owner of Uptown Espresso says homeless issues in the once-thriving neighborhood forced him out.

He says the conversion of The Inn at Queen Anne from a hotel brought more formerly homeless people into the neighborhood.

He and his neighbors, located around the corner from The Inn, say the impact of that decision is being felt right here in Lower Queen Anne.

“It’s kind of a bad situation to be a coffee bar retailer at the bottom of Queen Anne Hill right now,” said Paul Odom.

The longtime owner of Fonté Coffee Roaster doesn’t mince words about why he closed Uptown Espresso’s flagship location after 37 years.

“People having to step over bodies that are laying in front of the door,” he said. “Or, they might be defecating in front of your door, in the store sometimes.”

Still, Odom says he planned to renovate in anticipation of the opening of the Climate Pledge Arena.

Then in May, King County announced it would purchase the hotel around the corner as part of its strategy to address “That was the decision to close,” said Odom.

“Well, it’s pretty bad,” said David Meinert who owns the Mecca Café, across the street from the old Uptown.

“On this street, you see nobody does outdoor seating here,” said Meinert. “And it’s because of the homeless situation. You can’t put seats out here. If you did, people are camping in them, sitting in them. You can’t get rid of them. Police won’t do anything about it; can’t really do anything about it.”

Doing something about it is left to him and his staff.

“We clean up human feces every day,” said Meinert. “That’s part of my manager’s job, which stinks.”

As for change?

“Oh, with Seattle politics?” asked Meinert. “No, I’m not hopeful about Seattle politics at all. No. All this is going to get way worse, and maybe we’ll get some people elected who will do something about it.  But the current city council, the current mayor, anyone running for mayor, I have zero faith they’re going to change anything.”

Odom says things must change to prevent this in other neighborhoods.

“I think the city needs to get with the business community and figure out another plan because what they’ve done is not working,” said Odom.

“Homelessness is the greatest crisis our city is facing,” said Seattle City council member Andrew Lewis, who represents this neighborhood, in a statement. “The answer is scaling shelter to meet the crushing demand.”

Odom doesn’t rule out returning to this location.

But for now, he will run the seven remaining coffee bars he has in other locations.

He might even open a couple of new bars but says they won’t be located here.