SUV smashes into Seattle's oldest restaurant; driver takes off running

SEATTLE — A driver smashed into Seattle's oldest restaurant, Merchants Café, early Thursday morning and then took off running.  There were no injuries, but repairing the historic landmark will be no simple task.

PHOTOS: SUV slams into Seattle's historic Merchant's Cafe

“When I got here there was police everywhere,” Merchants Café Manager Jose Ricardi told KIRO 7.

He arrived shortly after the SUV hit around 2:20 a.m. and showed KIRO 7 the surveillance video.  In it, you see a flash of headlights, and then the SUV smashing into the building.

Ricardi says a witness told him they saw the SUV driver going up and down Yesler Way doing doughnuts.  The driver then drove the wrong way down the street, hit the corner of a pole with the front end of the vehicle, and that swung the tail end right into the building.

The driver took off running and left the Chevy Tahoe behind.  Seattle police towed it early Thursday morning.  Police told KIRO 7 it wasn't reported stolen, and they're looking for the driver.

The Merchants Cafe opened in 1890 as part of the rebuilding from the Great Seattle Fire, which happened 130 years ago on June 6th, 1889.

The Cafe also survived the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake.  And on early Thursday morning, a driver added a new chapter to its history.

Ricardi told KIRO 7 they couldn't afford to be closed all day, so he called on some construction buddies.

“Got a picture about 4 in the morning,” one worker, who didn’t want to give his name, told KIRO 7.  “And I pretty much left house and went straight to tool-up, went to Home Depot, and do what we could to come help him out.”

The permanent fix will be a challenge, because the building is an historic landmark.

“We have guidelines that we have to follow in order to repair it,” Ricardi said.  “We have to make it as original as possible.  So it makes it really difficult to just get a contractor out here and handle business.”

The interior of the restaurant was mostly spared.  And Ricardi emphasized the Merchants Cafe is open for business.