Just shy of its sixth Birthday, The Octopus Bar (2109 N 45th St) will lock up for the last time at the little Jules Verne-themed building they carved out of the old Wallingford Pizza House building on 45th Street. Fortunately, while they’re losing their lease on the building, they’re planning to take their theme just down the block to the old Iron Bull building on the corner of 45th and Bagley.
This came as a surprise to me. Last I spoke with co-owner Liza Danger, the plan was to continue to operate The Octopus in its present location, and to open a new bar, The Tailgate, in the location just down the block, where the Iron Bull (and Goldie’s before that) used to sit. As I understood it, The Octopus’ lease gave them “first right of refusal” on purchasing the property they sat on, and they had no plans to go anywhere.
This, of course, presented problems for the owners of the old Guild 45th Property. In 2017, Wagner / Cuban, the holding company that owned Landmark Theater chain, abruptly closed the Guild and sold the Landmark theater chain to the Cohen Media Group the following year. However, it retained the Seattle Landmark properties (which also includes the Seven Gables Theater in the University District). Since then, they have been trying to sell them, but are hampered by the fact that the Octopus Bar sits between the two 45th Street properties.
But then this showed up on the Octopus’ Facebook page:
Join us (between now and) Monday for our LAST DAY OF OPERATION in the current location of The Octopus Bar.
Never fear! We are deeeeep into the process of construction at our new location at 2121 N 45th St — the space where The Iron Bull once stood — and while this is bittersweet, it’s also a chance for us to do bigger and better things with our friends, colleagues and community and continue our legacy in our city!
So please, join us for a toast this Monday (all day!) and wish us good luck as we launch forward into this new adventure!
I spoke with Liza, who told me that they discovered just after Halloween that they did not have the right of first refusal (it sounds like there was some significant lawyering leading up to that result), and their lease is up, so they’re out!
“We’re moving next door, where we’re going to make a bigger and more amazing Octopus, hopefully before our sixth anniversary on January 25th,” she told me. “The most uncomfortable part right now is displacing 14 employees who actually give a sh*t about hospitality and this community and this city.” (Along those lines, their Facebook page adds “Through this transition: if you need a guest bartender, help throwing a holiday party where you need a cocktail/bartender, know a catering gig, want some good company, a hand in your kitchen: consider reaching out to any of our staff or email [email protected] with leads.”
“At the end of the day, we ultimately care about our community and the culture of Seattle. We raised over $150,000 for nine different local charities through events at the Octopus last year, and my goal is to make that $500,000 in the first year of Octopus 2.0.” The first partner will be Special Olympics Washington.
What this means for the Guild 45th property is unclear. Liza says that she has been in conversations with the building owners, and hopes to renovate and re-open the easternmost “pink” building as a music venue. “The sky’s the limit, we can turn it into whatever we want if they’re willing.” I’m sure this presents an unpleasant future for some (noise and late night crowds), but I think it would inject some much needed life and culture into the heart of our community.
However, a barrier to selling the pair of Guild properties (which was recently re-zoned to allow for a five-story building, making it a tasty morsel for a developer) has been the Octopus sitting in between, breaking up the opportunity for a single, large building. Presumably, the existing owner, Gita Stephan, recognizes the value her property possesses and must be considering whether to sell. If she did, we might quickly see all three buildings replaced with the standard “first floor retail, condos above” development like the Smith & Burns building down the street. I have not been able to reach either Gita or Wagner / Cuban for comment.
Notably, though, the marquee lights were flipped on at the Guild 45th and graffiti scrubbed from doors just this past week.
Unfortunately, this past week’s cleanup doesn’t mean that much is about to change. I spoke with Alex Nikitenko of Homecare Contractors, the company hired to maintain the property, and he said simply that they were “trying to figure out what to do with the property.”
Alex wasn’t sure exactly what would happen, but it sounded like all options (except re-opening as the Landmark movie theater) were open. “We’re open to talking to local groups and would like to talk to the neighborhood about it. But also, yes, if a buyer came along, we’d look at that.” In the meantime, there’s a leak in the roof that needs repair, and it needs basic maintenance to keep their options open. And that’s all.
Whatever happens, it has to be a step up from the litter and graffiti magnet the decrepit, unoccupied properties have become, right in the village core.