Add to the list of local businesses going out of business (Sunday’s New Business Roundup mentioned Alphabet Soup, Paper Delights, Crackerjack Contemporary Crafts and The Grizzled Wizard), The Red Door in Fremont has announced today they’ll be locking up for good soon, too:
It is with great sadness that we share that we will be closing the Red Door at the end of our current lease, and our last day of business will be Sunday, March 8th.
We take our stewardship of this historic building and business seriously, but we just aren’t able to make it work financially. We notified our team in person today and will be doing anything we can to support them in this transition.
We are grateful for you, and each and every person who has come through our doors – whether customer, supplier or team member – and will miss being a part of our wonderful Fremont community.
Please join us often between now and March 8th to raise a glass and celebrate the 31 years we’ve had together.
Pete and Emily
The Red Door is a bit of an unusual Fremont institution in that it was moved, not just as a business, but as a building, not once, but twice!
Originally built in 1895 as the Fremont Drug Building, it sat a block closer to what is today the Lake Washington Ship Canal but at the time was a stream connecting Lake Union to the tide flats in Ballard. In 1903, perhaps concerned with the disruption and even demolition that might be caused by the construction of the canal, the owners picked the building up and moved it to the corner of 34th and Fremont Ave, where Starbucks sits today.
As Wedgewood in Seattle History writes, the building went through a few different businesses over the years, including a drug store, until in 1930’s, when a ban on alcohol-serving establishments within a two-mile radius of the University of Washington was reduced:
At the time of the 1934 restoration of legality of alcohol use, the Washington State Legislature reduced the “ban” area from two miles down to a one-mile radius around the University of Washington. Some taverns such as the Blue Moon at 712 NE 45th Street became quite famous for being located just steps outside of the ban-boundary.
The 1934 reduction of the alcohol ban-boundary to just one mile around the University of Washington, meant that Fremont got its first alcohol-serving taverns that year. These establishments proliferated as people sought to climb out of the economic depression years of the 1930s by opening small businesses such as cafes and taverns. Soon the building at 3401 Fremont Avenue had not just one, but two taverns operating with the Fremont Tavern at 3401 and the Dubliner at 3407. The position of the building at the prominent business corner of 34th & Fremont Avenue, seemed to lend a “tavern district” atmosphere to the neighborhood.
Then, in 1988, Alfa Zinkus bought the business and turned it into the Red Door Ale House. In 2001 , Suzie Burke (owner of over half of Fremont’s industrial commercial space according to Rise Seattle’s podcast The Land Baroness of Fremont) decided to put in a larger and more efficient mixed used building on the spot, but rather than just knock the building down, agreed to put it on a wheels and slide it west two blocks:
In 2000, my son Michael was working as a stage manager for rock and roll groups. When my mother died he came home from the funeral and decided to work for the business for five years to see if he liked it.
I wanted to move the little blue building off the Fremont Bridge that had been dad’s offices. The owner of the Red Door would have had to be closed for 18 months, which would have ruined his business. Michael took on the job of moving the Red Door. They had to have five permits, which I applied for a year and a half in advance. The city of Seattle said no, you can only do one permit at a time. It was a big challenge but we managed to get it all done.
As the Seattle PI reported at the time, while the building itself was preserved, the interior got a major makeover:
With barely a whisper, the Red Door Ale House yesterday slid from its spot on Fremont Avenue where it has stood for 80 years to make room for a new mixed-use development.
In a week, the landmark tavern will move to its new resting spot, atop a parking garage at the corner of North 34th Street and Evanston Avenue North. There, the 101-year-old building will take on a new life as a restaurant with a full bar.
When they return, longtime customers will recognize the bar, but probably not much more inside. The main floor has been completely rebuilt, the old sloping and slanting floor is now even.
In the past, the uneven floor often served as a sort of sobriety test, checking the steadiness of those who’d had a few.
“I’ve been in there for a drink,” recalled Bridgeport beer salesman Gary DenOtter. “The floor wasn’t level when I went in, or when I walked out.”
And as of March, this chapter ends, and a new one will begin. Get yourself a pint before history passes you by.