Easy Street Records proprietor ‘superbummed’ that his dreams for Corner Pocket’s future apparently aren’t coming true

easystreet
(WSB photo showing Easy Street and Corner Pocket at the Hamm Building, March 2016)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Tonight, as it does several nights most months, Easy Street Records is hosting an in-store concert.

As usual, it’ll be in the space where Easy Street operates its wildly popular café by day. But if Easy Street proprietor Matt Vaughan had his way, he’d have some extra space for events like that by now – downstairs, in the space that was long known as the Corner Pocket.

Vaughan sat down with WSB yesterday afternoon to talk about his hopes of taking it over – which, he says, hit a sudden and mysterious roadblock. So far, other key players in the saga are declining comment, so we’re telling Vaughan’s story, which he contacted us about so that you would know where things stand.

First, the Corner Pocket backstory:

The abrupt shutdown of the Corner Pocket happened last December, as we first told you during breaking-news coverage of a police raid there.

As unfolded in our subsequent coverage, Seattle Police made undercover drug buys there, and five months later, a member of the family that had long operated the bar, Michael E. Maine, pleaded guilty to three drug charges and one firearms charge and was sentenced to residential drug treatment.

Though the bar’s liquor license was suspended as a result, Maine’s mother Jan Maine retained its lease and continued to pay rent, while seeking to secure its future. That’s according to Vaughan, who says he reached an agreement to buy the business from her back in June.

He says he was ready to start paying the rent in June, but they were waiting for a key approval – from the building’s property manager, WN Management. (Reached by phone this morning, WN’s Mike Trifolio declined comment.) Originally, Vaughan explained, the Corner Pocket’s longtime manager Tommy Jenkins was going to be part of the deal to take over the CP space, but the property manager said they didn’t want anyone from the CP’s past involved, and Vaughan agreed to that. Still he waited for final approval. “We got the keys and the lease” in the meantime. After a few months went by, Vaughan said, he wrote the rent check instead of Maine – but it wasn’t cashed. He said he reached out to the city-landmark Hamm Building‘s owners, the Yen family (we have left a voice message for a family spokesperson), and was told there would be “an update soon,” but it’s mid-October now and no update yet.

He said he heard rumors of “other offers” but “I wasn’t too concerned – we’d made a deal, and (Jan Maine) was making plans to move to Arizona.”

So he waited. He said he had no reason to believe he wouldn’t eventually get approval – “we had had discussions before, over the years,” including, he says, the building’s owners, “that Easy Street would be the natural successor” for the Corner Pocket space, someday.

It wasn’t just a space – he was buying the equipment too, including “nice pool tables” and kitchen equipment, accumulated over the decades.

But now it appears that’s all going to someone else. Vaughan says he’s heard rumors – and someone anonymously called us a few days with the same rumor – that it’s people formerly involved with another bar in West Seattle (we haven’t confirmed anything and we don’t publish rumors). We contacted the state Liquor and Cannabis Board today to ask if anyone has applied for a new or transferred license for the Corner Pocket space – which often happens fairly early in a new business’s plan to open. Spokesperson Mikhail Carpenter told us, “We have no pending applications at that location. The previous license expired in February. A new entity could certainly apply for a new license at the location.”

Regarding Vaughan’s hopes for the space, he says that contrary to what he describes as “gossip,” he had never planned to turn it into a venue. “Our only concept was to bring our events and in-store (shows) downstairs – they’re usually in the early evening – try to do some as all-ages.” He says Easy Street has always been mindful of noise rules and hasn’t had any violations – he soundproofed the ceiling many years ago and that, he says, has been enough protection that even the residents in the Hamm Building’s upstairs apartments don’t complain.

He says he’s “superbummed” that his dreams don’t appear likely to come true. But he stresses that he also remains grateful to the Hamm Building’s owners for having given him the chance, way back when he was all of 19 years old, to get the prime spot on the corner, and then later to expand into the restaurant space, where, he says, he would love to add dinner service sometime – if there was another space (such as the Corner Pocket) available for some of the in-store shows, which often are booked at the last minute.

“It just seemed like a natural progression for us, and a fair deal, and one that struck an emotional chord for Jan and myself.”

So does Vaughan have any recourse? He’s still mulling that. But in the short run, he wanted you to know what’s going on … or not going on.

33 Replies to "Easy Street Records proprietor 'superbummed' that his dreams for Corner Pocket's future apparently aren't coming true"

  • Villagegreen October 18, 2017 (1:54 pm)

    More than super bummed, this the worst news I’ve heard in a while. What a stupid decision by the owner and / or property management company. 

  • pfunk October 18, 2017 (1:58 pm)

    That is too bad.   If anyone deserves a chance to grow it is Matt.  Easy Street is arguably the “heart and soul” of West Seattle, it is literally known around the world as destination.  But it is also a place you can see an act play live.    Honesty  West Seattle doesn’t need “yet another bar”…we already have a bunch of great ones.  What we need is another music venue, and if it was all ages that would even be better.

    • Matt October 18, 2017 (7:14 pm)

      +1 to that sentiment.  Easy Street is a WSEA icon.  They are as local as it gets.

  • RJB October 18, 2017 (1:59 pm)

    I am too super bummed…another reason I will not visit the Corner Pocket again. Sorry Matt, this would of been SO AMAZING for West Seattle. Thanks for everything you HAVE brought to the Westside.

  • quiz October 18, 2017 (2:16 pm)

    Seems shady and short sighted on the property owner’s part.

  • tonenotvolume October 18, 2017 (2:32 pm)

    Follow the money to see how good ideas and good community relations get squashed.

  • Al October 18, 2017 (2:34 pm)

    Matt should have gotten it. What other bar owners would that be that may get it seems odd

  • thee October 18, 2017 (3:01 pm)

    This is a bummer and would have been a boon to the growing West Seattle music scene (yes, there is one!). However, this is a good time to remind folks that West Seattle has a great music venue—The Parliament Tavern always hosts great bands. You should probably check it out now before some writer from The Stranger  crosses the bridge, blabs about it and every hipster from Capital Hill invades. 

    • Aaron October 18, 2017 (3:41 pm)

      True. I, too, am bummed, was really looking forward to it. WS and WC need a few more music venues, the void is ready to be filled. Love Parliament and I hope Drunky’s has more shows. 

  • sw October 18, 2017 (3:28 pm)

    Figures it isn’t happening as it made way too much sense.  Easy Street is a treasure and I could not think of a better steward for that space.  Throwing some shade at “Jersey Mike” and the building owners for not looking beyond the dollar signs.

  • Guy Olson October 18, 2017 (3:57 pm)

    I’m glad that he tried, that’s a real bummer. We appreciate all you do for our community Matt.

  • Bob Major October 18, 2017 (4:46 pm)
    Don’t dream it’s over, Matt. 
    Yo, Dr. Yen?! You wanna come out and respond here and take a stand?! Seriously.
    Show some support, as you once have years ago. 
    Don’t let some PM slug by the name of “Jersey Mike” ruin the legacy of one of your properties. 
    Easy Street Records will always be my home and it’s staff, my family. Everyone in Seattle, not just West Seattle residents know just how crucial and important ESR has been to the Junction and the community. With the untimely demise of the Corner Pocket, it seemed logical that Easy Street would continue to evolve and incorporate the space underneath. 
    Seems like “Jersey Mike” is not a music fan. 
  • Shameful October 18, 2017 (5:22 pm)

    It’s a shame that a former bar owner or employee are responsible for this dream being ruined. What does that say about them as potential business owners? Sounds like corner pocket will be getting more of what it was. 

  • Peter October 18, 2017 (6:01 pm)

    Vaughan is quoted as saying he has the keys and the lease, and he tendered rent. If Vaughan has a lease and tendered payment of rent, legally that means he paid the rent regardless of if they cashed the check. So having the lease, having the keys, and having tendered rent, Vaughan has full legal rights to the space. So what’s the problem?

    As WSB stated, this is one side of the story. But as much as I love Easy Street, the story doesn’t add up. 

  • PotKettleBlack October 18, 2017 (7:44 pm)

    It’s funny how every time there is a discussion about our music scene West Seattle seems to pretend that the Skylark on Delridge doesn’t exist. That’s not a knock on any other venue or our town in general, and it’s not saying that everything about the Skylark is great. It’s just odd that West Seattle has had a perfectly acceptable music venue for more than a decade and everyone seems to think that the west side is desperate for a venue. It would be like everyone being super excited to get a Neapolitan pizza place in Admiral (there’s three last I counted.) 

    • WSB October 18, 2017 (8:14 pm)

      There’s a lot of live music in WS and we try to calendarize most of it – with highlights in our daily “what’s up” lists and our ongoing calendar. Skylark keeps a thorough calendar online (also spotlighting its quizzes, karaoke, other shows like West End Girls, etc.)

      http://www.skylarkcafe.com/new-events/?view=calendar&month=October-2017

      Parliament doesn’t have a website calendar but sends us most of their listings. C&P has a lot of acoustic music and an up-to-date online calendar.

      http://candpcoffee.com/calendar/

      There are other venues with one or two acts a week. We also list Easy Street, Kenyon Hall, and others. Poggie Tavern, meantime, keeps a list up in their window! – TR

  • Meyer October 18, 2017 (7:56 pm)

    Well this sucks. Easy Street is a WS icon and I can only assume the former Corner Pocket space would have turned into an equally iconic WS staple.

    I really hope there is recourse for Matt.

  • DRW October 18, 2017 (11:08 pm)

    Super bummed! Was hoping for another live music venue in West Seattle. Maybe in the future?!

  • TreeHouse October 19, 2017 (7:24 am)

    That is super disappointing. ESR is the staple of the West Seattle Junction. I don’t normally get upset by these kinds of stories but this one did it. Sorry Matt. 

  • pfunk October 19, 2017 (8:26 am)

    WN Management and the rumored new bar:  take note of the sentiment here.    Any business coming in has a tough time making it, that much is known.   Its tough enough to start a new business, but when you disappoint everyone before you even open the doors? Does not seem smart to me.   You done goofed playing Matt like that.   The community is behind him.   

    For those complaining “but what about venue X”…its not about your favorite venue. Its about having *more* venues, perhaps allowing for all ages (do any of the venues mention have that?).  And as good as those venues are, EasyStreet occasionally has some top national acts do a small show.  How cool is that?   Thanks to WSB for maintaining the events calendar, having choices is a good thing!

    • HelperMonkey October 19, 2017 (9:06 am)

      agreed, Pfunk. Knowing the backstory now, it’s unlikely I’ll ever visit the new bar when it opens. This whole thing stinks to high heaven, and I am sure “Jersey Mike” is getting a hefty kickback from all this. Too bad it’s going to backfire on him. 

    • newnative October 19, 2017 (9:10 am)

      I agree.

  • 22blades October 19, 2017 (8:52 am)

    “Superbummed” is an understatement. This is exactly the kind of venue under siege in the city of Seattle. Accessible art, read music venues, are a huge part of a community; that’s for proprietors and artists alike. I am hoping for a positive turn here and refuse to give up.

  • Diana Harris October 19, 2017 (9:25 am)

     What is happening here is so disappointing and upsetting for WSeattle and all the Easy Street fans !

      Wait a second.. Do I have this right?? The  old woman who owned the Corner Pocket was put in a terrible place as she was forced to take an offer significantly less than what Easy Street offered.  This was  clearly unfair and shameful on the owner of the building Dr Yen.  

    Diana 

  • Mike October 19, 2017 (9:32 am)

    Crap news..  This would have been great for West Seattle.  Jersey Mike and Dr. Yen need to quit jerking Matt around.  They tore down his sign in the middle of the night a few years back.  No warning or compensation..  This makes zero sense to me..

  • Brad October 19, 2017 (11:52 am)

    I’m a supporter of Easy Street Records and always will be. I will say however that I am very excited the Corner Pocket will return.

  • Craig October 19, 2017 (12:46 pm)

    how does a property manager keep his job after losing his tenant a years worth of rent, and public scorn.   

  • WestSider October 19, 2017 (12:50 pm)

    I understand the vitriol poised at the building owners and property manager.  But I am going to give the new tenants a fair shake.   From what I hear they are West Seattle people and already have successful businesses around town.   Who knows, maybe Easy Street and them will come to an business arrangement.

  • Mat October 19, 2017 (12:56 pm)

    I’d have gone to Matt’s place because Easy Street is rad and I’m sure he’d have done great things in this space (someone called it the heart of our neighborhood and am inclined to agree). 

    This new place is going to have a tough time earning my business without some pretty serious explanations and I’m glad to see I’m not alone in that sentiment.      

  • MsWestside October 19, 2017 (1:18 pm)

    A lot of details seem to be misrepresented in this article and comments.  I’m looking forward to seeing what the new owners are going to do with the space.  They are not new to the game nor to the area.  Gonna give it a shot as a place to go and play some pool…possibly after a good Jaks dinner.

  • AmandaK October 19, 2017 (2:35 pm)

    It’d be so cool if some famous local band member(s) were to make and offer and buy that building from the owner and sidestep Jersey Mike altogether.   Just sayin’…

  • PotKettleBlack October 19, 2017 (2:58 pm)

    I completely agree PFunk. Easy Street is a quick walk from my house. Had breakfast there last weekend. I’m sure Matt would have done a great job, and I 100% would have attended shows there.  My point isn’t so much that we don’t need more venues, we do, but that we should see this as a chance to rally around what we do have before we lose it. What makes a venue a great one is its audience. CBGB is the classic example. Horrible venue made world famous by its audience. We’ve seen more venues than I can name close (or fail to open) in these last couple of years and we need to realize that our “Yelp first, ask questions later” attitude is partially to blame.

    A great example is your question about all-ages shows, and I’ll use Skylark as an example again. (Not cause it’s my favorite. It’s very much not. My favorite is a speakeasy in Vancouver. There’s a big owl painted on the outside. Find it.) They’ve had all ages shows at least once a week since they opened. That’s over 10 years of all-ages performances and I’d bet that the majority of West Seattle doesn’t know.  It’s up to us (myself included) to seek these things out before they go away.  Rather than waiting for the perfect owner to open the perfect place in the perfect location, go somewhere new. See a band you’ve never heard of. Drink a warm beer. Sweat. A venue under Easy Street would have been amazing, but only because you and I, and the rest of the commenters would have been there. Without us it’s just a room.

  • Concerned westseattlite October 20, 2017 (9:04 pm)

    Corner pocket couldn’t do concerts in that place because it was in their lease. It seems like someone isn’t including all the facts to stir up the crowd?  

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