Alki Homestead fire update: Owner expects 6+-month closure

(Friday morning photo by David Hutchinson)
Three days after fire damaged Alki’s historic Homestead Restaurant, its owner has a clearer picture of the road ahead to getting it reopened. As we reported Friday morning, investigators say the $400,000 fire was an electrical accident – sparked by too many Christmas lights plugged into a single socket. Tom Lin, who bought the Homestead after longtime owner Doris Nelson passed away, provides this update on what’s happening now with the restaurant (an official Seattle landmark), its employees, and the prospective new owner he was in the process of selling it to when this happened:

The dust has finally settled after 3 chaotic days. I know many people are interested in knowing what is going on with Alki Homestead after the fire, and I will update as much as I can as we proceed with the cleanup.

First of all, I must thank the Fire Department and the Police Department for the prompt response time. I believe the phone call was made at 5:20 AM and they had the fire out by 5:40. I don’t think anyone can ask for more than that. It was such a blessing that fire started at 5 AM instead of 5 PM and no one got hurt.

At 6 AM, my longtime employee, Bonnie, who worked for Mrs. Nelson for 17 years and has worked for me for 3 years, showed up in tears wanting to talk to the Fire Chief. She had one request, she asked if anyone could get the reservation book so she could call all the customers who had reservation for the weekend. A “firewoman” went inside, grabbed the charred reservation book and handed to Bonnie.

After examining the damage, I think it will take longer than 6 months to reopen Alki Homestead. The damage is quite extensive. I believe the entire roof needs to be replaced. The middle part of the second floor will have to come down. There is a big hole in the ceiling of the first floor where the fire went up and that also punctured a hole in the roof.

This is our photo from Friday showing that damage:

Tom continues:

The ceiling of the main dining room is pretty much charred. The fireplace actually stopped the fire from spreading to the left side of the dining room. All the tables and chairs are gone. Luckily, the dining table that is over 100 years old is still standing. The King and Queen’s chairs are ok. The PI clock and the sideboards are charred. All the chandeliers are melted. I think we can salvage the pictures of the Barnards.

I will know more next week after we get the official damage report. I have already instructed the general manager, Chris Long, to supplement employees with their salary for at least 3 months. It is more than a job for most of them and we will not leave them on the street at any cost.

I know we have lots of gift certificates outstanding. We will try to get other restaurants in Alki to honor them or we will redeem the gift certificates with cash. I will post the details soon. If any restaurants would like to honor our gift certificates, please e-mail me.

I have spoken to the buyer of the restaurant business and he is still interested in taking over, except it will be on a later date. I will disclose the buyer’s identity later in the week after our meeting tomorrow. We will be renegotiating the terms of the sale and hopefully come to an agreement.

I bought Alki Homestead because I wanted to preserve the part of history that has been very important to this neighborhood. Some people may still want to treat me like an outsider, but I have as much at stake as anyone else who lives here. In any event, our goal is to restore the restaurant and hopefully make it better. We will get a better facility that will meet the ADA standards, from the bathrooms to the handicapped ramp. Hopefully wheelchair customers won’t have to go through the kitchen and hopefully the bathrooms will be big enough to accommodate wheelchairs with no steps going up and down. This may be our chance to update the restaurant, think positive. Both Alki Homestead and the pan-fried chicken will return.

So much for the thoughts tonight, hope to get some feedback soon. My e-mail is

Tom Lin

For those who’ve never been inside, this Wikimedia photo shows what a special place it’s been:

But just hours after the fire, so many of those interior fixtures, as Tom mentioned, were in a charred heap outside:

We will be following up with Tom for those future updates he mentioned.

Eerily, we can’t help but note that it’s just a few weeks till the first anniversary of the fire that closed another beloved West Seattle restaurant for months – the Charlestown Cafe fire in February 2008 – that one, too, an accident; the Charlestown finally reopened almost five months later.

8 Replies to "Alki Homestead fire update: Owner expects 6+-month closure"

  • Denny January 19, 2009 (9:06 am)


    I am a West Seattle native and pan-fried chicken devotee. From all you have shared we are lucky to have someone committed to preserving that which is good in our little burg.

    Your commitment to the employees, the historic nature of the building, and the real essence of the Homestead is appreciated.

    I look forward to news, updates, and yes, the chicken in the near future.

    Thanks for doing it right.

  • Dano Beal January 19, 2009 (9:43 am)

    I am a friend of Tom Lin… Speaking as a 10 year resident of Alki, I am just so impressed by the care he is exhibiting… toward his employees(who he cares deeply about) and toward the special place he has made his home…. the Alki neighborhood. While the Homstead is certainly lucky to have someone who cares about preserving it, we as a community are lucky to have Tom as a neighbor. I’m proud he is my friend…

  • Cami January 19, 2009 (10:55 am)

    Is there anyway that neighbors can contribute to a fund for the employees?

  • Vickie January 19, 2009 (12:12 pm)

    Denny and Dano – well said…Tom’s commitment to all aspects involved sounds outstanding and I look forward to enjoying the fried chicken again in the future too! Cami – great question as well, would love to hear if anything is set up for the community to help with this effort…

  • JanS January 19, 2009 (12:41 pm)

    and I’m so glad that he hasn’t lost the sale because of this fire. I don’t know this man, but it seems that he really cares about the Alki community, and I’m especially impressed as to how he’s taking care of his employees for the near future. This is a tough time economically for a lot of people, and it’s nice to know that they’re not facing a long stint without incomewhile they try to find temporary work.

  • Mickymse January 19, 2009 (3:16 pm)

    I am so glad I made all of my friends go for dinner for my birthday in December. At the time, I was just worried that the new owner would make too many changes… Now, I’m worried it won’t re-open!

    Please keep us updated, and I will also chime in with interest in supporting the new restaurant, and the existing employees!

    Keep us posted…

  • Guy Olson January 19, 2009 (3:22 pm)

    I too have known Tom for some time now. Like Dano I’m proud to have him as a friend. He is a great guy, who works hard and cares for this community. The Homestead is more than a restaurant, it is a true piece of history. Adding to which, people have very strong memories and feelings towards. We should all give Tom and his employees help and positive feedback is this sad time. Also I wish Slices was open, I want some pizza….

  • zerodacus January 19, 2009 (8:20 pm)

    I dearly hope this is the case, and they will be reopening. I drive by the what used to be the Twin Tepees daily, which too was a local landmark that had a repairable fire. One day it was just gone.

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