West Seattle biznote: Admiral Benbow’s owners say they’re closing

Just shy of a year after the owner of the then-Heartland Café announced he’d sold it, the owners who then resurrected its former identity as the Admiral Benbow say they’re closing it. Announced on Facebook tonight by co-proprietor Allison Hill:

It is with great sadness that Ian Hill and I are announcing the closure of The Admiral Benbow. We made a great run at it and love it dearly, but some things just aren’t meant to be. We want to thank all the friends, fans, pirates, scallywags, bands and everyone else who helped make this dream of ours come true, even though it was only a short period of time. Our last day will be Sunday, March 22nd. So come down and see us over the next 12 days and help us go out with a blast! We’re still open until then so come get your drink on or catch a show. Help us send this place off the right way! Thank you all again. We love you and can’t thank you enough.

The Hills had applied the Benbow brand to the entire operation at 4210 SW Admiral Way – restaurant, bar, and entertainment venue – in a nod to its long-ago fame as the Admiral Benbow Inn.

26 Replies to "West Seattle biznote: Admiral Benbow's owners say they're closing"

  • Ann March 10, 2015 (10:27 pm)

    West Seattle is great but if so many small businesses can’t make it around here due to high operating costs, high rent, etc., can we start to rethink raising retail rents so high? Finding a reasonable apartment or rental home is difficult now too and small businesses are having a hard time. Feels like we are just creating another bubble that will eventually burst.

  • mike March 10, 2015 (10:47 pm)

    Another classic place bites the dust. Personally I will miss losing another live music venue.

  • Tony March 10, 2015 (10:57 pm)

    This is a huge bummer, hopefully whoever comes in keeps the pirate theme going

  • Russ March 10, 2015 (11:00 pm)

    I’m a little confused, does this include heartland cafe and Vidiot?

    • WSB March 10, 2015 (11:11 pm)

      There is no Heartland Café. The Hills bought it a year ago, including the bar and the performance space, and renamed the entire operation Admiral Benbow (Benbow Room, Benbow Galley, etc.). Vidiot, meantime, is a separate business with separate owners.

  • K'lo March 10, 2015 (11:07 pm)

    D-A-N-G!! Sigh. . .

  • newnative March 11, 2015 (12:22 am)

    I am sorry the novelty bar will close but not sorry that this crowd will finally be silenced. It was nice when it originally opened but turned into a less desirable place with littering, loitering and just bully behavior.

  • FreGirl March 11, 2015 (12:29 am)

    Could never tell if the cafe was even open anymore for many months. Never anyone in there, even a staff person, seemed like no matter what time a day or day of the week. Used to love to go in for breakfast but it just stopped looking honey and inviting and looked deserted and sketchy… As for the bar, well, lobed the theme but it smelled, was very dingy, and the bartender always way overpour or way underpour.

  • David March 11, 2015 (6:30 am)

    It’s not “high rent” or operating costs per se. It’s just general business. Not having enough customers is the main cause. There are “bars” in places with much higher rents than little old West Seattle (re: New York city).

    50% of all restaurants everywhere fail in the first year, from New Hampshire to San Francisco. You can blame it on local tax codes, regulations, etc, but to be honest businesses fail. Look at all the places that have been there for DECADE or more in the same neighborhood. How long has Circa been around? 15 years? Mission? Caffe Fiore just opened like 2 years ago. Husky Deli has been clicking along for many many decades. It can be done.

    Cost go up (a Coke was $0.25 when I was a kid, now $1.50 at 7/11). Rent goes up, utilities go up, labor go up. You raise your prices, so does your competitors. Did the business fail because their prices were SO high no on could afford their product? I don’t think so. Other issue…generic boring business issues. It just wasn’t attracting enough customers to keep it in business. SUCKS…but happens.

  • Rick March 11, 2015 (6:51 am)

    @newnative glad you’re a “native”. As soon as we make our neighborhood like your old one or the one you want us to be it’ll be all good, right? For once in my life… I’m glad I’m old. “Everybody wants to go to Heaven but nobody wants to go right now”.

  • twobottles March 11, 2015 (7:58 am)

    Can’t say as I’m surprised. Much like The Cask, just before it closed, the quality of the food (in my opinion anyway), declined with the new ownership. Also, no longer serving breakfast, and eventually no longer serving lunch on weekdays meant that I stopped going. It will be missed.

  • Eden Greer March 11, 2015 (9:30 am)

    Thank you Ian and Allison for giving musicians of every level a place to gather, practice, hone and enjoy their craft. You all took impressive care of your musicians and our community.
    Seattle needs all the help it can get to support its fabulous working musicians,and you’ve done the scene proud. As West Seattle continues to fall to the lackluster homogeneity of urban development, we’ll miss the small town feel and intimate creative connections of the The Benbow Room.

  • Jeff Bartel March 11, 2015 (10:25 am)

    You have no chance trying to operate a business in the city of Seattle.
    They will crush you with taxes, L&I and medical.
    The new minnimum wage is great- if the business can afford it. There needs to be flexibility for small businesses- especially if employees are in agreement.
    Things need to change and quick.

  • Tony S March 11, 2015 (1:04 pm)

    As someone pointed out, there are quite a few very successful restaurants and ventures around WSeattle.

    We enjoyed the Benbow / Heartland the first couple years, but the service dropped off from competent to surly, the food went from good to terrible, and the patrons followed suit. We stopped going quite a while ago. I don’t think it was the city’s taxes or the L&I that did in the Benbow…

  • higgins March 11, 2015 (1:55 pm)

    I’ve been to the Benbow/Heartland a handful of times over the past three or four years and always enjoyed the dive-y vibe. But dive bars should still have good service and decent food; I want those Rainier tallboys and tequila shots to come quickly and with a smile, and I want my greasy tuna melt to be just like grandma used to make. Service was gradually slower and less friendly, and food quality went down, so I finally stopped going. I guess I wasn’t the only one. A shame.

  • William March 11, 2015 (3:29 pm)

    There was no continuity with the place no local advertising for the bands no big neon sign on Admiral saying Live Music here . People didn’t really know the place existed and that it could be a great place for music as there are really no real live music venues in west Seattle. Too bad I guess we’re left with Poggie tavern

    • WSB March 11, 2015 (3:46 pm)

      FWIW, we posted their bands in our event calendar, as we do with other venues, at our expense (I pay an editorial assistant to work with the calendar, both the entries sent to us and those we find online), and spotlighted them on our home page at least once a week. The Poggie meantime has no online calendar (I wish!) – they post a hard-copy list in their window (unfortunately we don’t have the time to go check that for listings). So I don’t know if that was the problem. There are other live-music venues around town, by the way – Skylark in particular – also different genres at C & P and Salty’s. – TR

  • villagegreen March 11, 2015 (7:26 pm)

    That is a damn shame. One of the few iconic businesses left in West Seattle. I don’t quite understand the problem making the place a success. The hard work is already done, restoring the pirate bar to its original beauty and putting in a dinner up front. All that remains is to find someone who knows how to run a restaurant. One simply can’t keep a neighborhood bar/music venue afloat without serving decent food. It started alright, but ended up an afterthought. Man, if something like Skillet Diner went in it would be a raging success. Even a Zippy’s north would be excellent. I just hope someone with some skills realizes what a gem they could have on their hands and buys the place before Starbucks or Chipotle takes over!

  • Jonas Grumbie March 11, 2015 (8:12 pm)

    I remember a private party there on the day of my high school graduation, but I don’t know that I’ve been there since, decades later.

  • Westgirl March 11, 2015 (10:09 pm)

    My husband will miss the Fried Chicken and Biscuits! Sad to see it go!

  • Jerrod March 12, 2015 (5:49 am)

    WTF Jeff Bartel?

    Have you ever been to the joint? Do you know anything about running a business? You post:

    “You have no chance trying to operate a business in the city of Seattle.
    They will crush you with taxes, L&I and medical.
    The new minnimum wage is great- if the business can afford it. There needs to be flexibility for small businesses- especially if employees are in agreement.
    Things need to change and quick.”

    I normally don’t respond to things like this that are so wrong, for the same reason I don’t try to play chess with my dog. However, just for kicks:

    Seattle currently has the best economy in the United States.

    Seattle is the fastest growing “big city” in the United States.

    Businesses, local and global, are thriving in Seattle – including restaurants and bars opening every day.

    I’d like to think your post was sarcastic, considering how absolutely ridiculous it is, but it sounds like you were able to memorize some talking points from polished, cynical con men – and/or their clueless victims/superfans.

    Benbow is closing because the place sucks.

  • JD March 12, 2015 (8:27 am)

    Fantastic, I have no ideas of what should go in that space but at this point another dry cleaners would be preferable.

  • G March 12, 2015 (10:09 am)

    One of the reasons Seattle is so prosperous, is because there is no state income tax. Among others, affluent retirees are coming here in droves and they have money to spend.

  • Ann March 13, 2015 (1:47 pm)

    I was not aware of the service and quality declining but I do know that when I would drive by you could never tell if it was open or closed. Same with Vidiot. Is that place even open? There’s no sign (I don’t see one?) and last I saw a big lock on the door. I had breakfast at Heartland café over a year ago and it was very good, but was never clear when/if it was open and sad to hear the service declined.

    • WSB March 13, 2015 (1:52 pm)

      Vidiot has a FB post from just two days ago so I would take that as indication that yes, they’re open. The sign is the neon on their Admiral-facing facade, also seen on the FB page, which says their hours are 5 pm-2 am.

  • Danny March 19, 2015 (9:07 pm)

    It’s a bummer. One less music venue in our hood.
    And as an entrepreneur, Seattle has been fine for my business, now 25 years strong. Sure B & O taxes are no fun, but so are pot holes.
    Let’s hope it will at least be kept as a venue for music.

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