Charlestown Cafe – West Seattle Blog… West Seattle news, 24/7 Wed, 15 Aug 2018 02:55:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 West Seattle development: Ex-Charlestown Café demolition day Wed, 03 Jun 2015 18:06:40 +0000

(WSB photo)
FIRST REPORT, 11:06 AM: We’ve been following the final run-up to the demolition of the former Charlestown Café – and contrary to our most recent information from Intracorp, which plans to build 27 live-work and townhouse units on the site, the teardown is happening now. Just started – thanks to the person who tipped us; the heavy equipment wasn’t there when we drove by around 9 am.

The Charlestown Café closed in April 2011, after its final few years brought a variety of challenges:

Less than three years before it closed forever, it was shut down for five months following a fire in February 2008. That fire happened just days after the café ownership found out a retail-development proposal that had threatened to cost them their lease had fallen through, giving them a reprieve; first word of that proposal had brought a groundswell of public support via a community campaign in early 2007 (in our early days of covering news on WSB). After the restaurant closed in April 2011, a mixed-use-development proposal surfaced but didn’t go far; two years later, the Intracorp plan appeared, and that’s what’s going forward now.

ADDED 12:57 PM: The aforementioned community campaign eight years ago was spearheaded by Mark Wainwright, a former Admiral Neighborhood Association president who has been involved in other community-advocacy efforts along the way too. We asked him today for some thoughts on the end of the line for what was the Charlestown Café:

Was walking the dog last night and decided to wander by… I walked up the not-so-good alley (which I believe is being improved – yea!) and gazed over the old and beaten remains of the Charlestown Cafe.

Its easy to look forward to the demolition, as the building is a mess, but I do remember those breakfasts…

And how important a place it was when people in the surrounding blocks needed a warm place with food and coffee during that big winter storm and power outage we had years ago.

When Petco proposed a store on that site, I wasn’t too excited. I wasn’t a dog owner back then (am now), but regardless I wasn’t excited.

Lot’s of people weren’t excited – for lots of reasons. People wanted the Charlestown Cafe to stay exactly as it had been. People didn’t like the idea of a national retailer. People though a big store and big parking lot was a waste of space for housing. People thought lots of things.

But we managed to come together as a group – and not make it about Petco or other stuff. We came together out of a desire to support our neighborhood, to support our “Mickey Mouse pancakes,” and to show everybody involved in that whole thing that we gave a damn. And Petco walked away.

I learned a lot – about organizing people, about our neighborhood, about Larry Mellum (Charlestown Cafe owner), about the property owner (the name escapes me, but I think they own a ton of Seattle lots and live up in Edmonds). Most of all, I learned that people can make a difference.

I’m not down on this new development – it was going to happen sooner or later, and I’m looking forward to what comes of it. I’ll freely admit that I’m all for building more housing, because I believe that our current high prices (rent and for sale) are (at least partially) a result of high demand and low supply.

But really, I’m excited about the future. Maybe my daughter’s next best friend will live there. Maybe a teacher will live there. And maybe we can all make some new memories together there in the future.

Good memories, tho. And good Mickey Mouse pancakes.

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West Seattle development: Ex-Charlestown Café site work expected to start Monday Sat, 30 May 2015 05:53:37 +0000 ORIGINAL REPORT, FRIDAY NIGHT: Four years after the end of its run as a restaurant, the much-vandalized ex-Charlestown Café building is in its final days. Dan Swallow from development firm Intracorp told WSB late tonight that they plan to “break ground” on the site Monday; city records show the demolition permit was issued a week and a half ago. 14 townhouses and 13 live-work units are planned for the site; the Southwest Design Review Board OK’d the plan six months ago. (WSB file photo)

MONDAY UPDATE: The actual building demolition is not planned until next week, we’ve confirmed on followup.

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West Seattle development: Ex-Charlestown Café; 23rd/Findlay houses Mon, 06 Apr 2015 18:31:24 +0000 Two West Seattle development-related notes today:

CALIFORNIA/CHARLESTOWN: Thanks to those who messaged us to say crews are on site at the former Charlestown Café site again today, continuing deconstruction work that started last week. No heavy equipment on site at last check – this part of the work is being done by hand – but we’re checking with developer Intracorp to see about the timetable for full demolition of the four-years-vacant building, which has been ravaged by tagging/graffiti vandalism at an increasing pace. A 27-unit complex, split between townhouses and live-work units, is planned; we noted its land-use-approval decision four weeks ago. ADDED 1:03 PM: Dan Swallow from Intracorp replied to our question: “Current activity is abatement. Actual demo and heavy equipment will be end of April/early May.”

HOUSES ON SLOPES: Today’s Land Use Information Bulletin has two notices for single-family houses proposed in the 5400 block of 23rd SW (map). The notices are out because, the city says, building on these sites would require a variance of the city’s Environmentally Critical Area rules regarding “steep slope buffers,” and each one says, “This comment period may be the only opportunity to comment on the environmental impacts of this proposal.” The notice for 5462 23rd SW is here; for 5456 23rd SW, here. The comment period is open for two weeks, until April 19th.

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New plan for ex-Charlestown Café: Six 5-unit townhouse buildings Tue, 04 Jun 2013 22:54:52 +0000

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

If you have been hoping to hear about another restaurant taking over the two-years-closed Charlestown Café – you’re likely out of luck.

While the first post-closure proposal for the site has long since been scrapped, a new one is in play – and it is primarily residential.

City records show that Intracorp – the same developers behind the 3210 California proposal a few blocks north, as well as another proposal across the street from that – is pursuing a plan for six 5-unit townhouse buildings “around a central drive aisle” on the ex-café site.

We’re working to talk with the developers to find out more about the plan and the property’s status – it was posted as available “for lease” about a year after it closed – but for now, here’s what we have found out:

The project will require Design Review – no date set yet. The site plan filed with the city by West Seattle-founded Nicholson-Kovalchick Architects shows the townhouses in two 3-building rows – one facing California, one directly behind (parallel to an alley and the single-family homes east of it), with live-work units on the street at the California/Charlestown corner, and residential units everywhere else. The curb cuts (driveways) on California would be removed, with one proposed off SW Bradford on the south side of the site.

Intracorp, as noted earlier, is the developer for the ~155-apartment project at 3210 California SW, which goes back to the SW Design Review Board for a second round of Early Design Guidance on June 27 (as noted here last month), and also is listed as developer for a proposal across the street at 3211 California, described in documents as a 65-unit apartment building to replace three houses.

The Charlestown Café closed in April 2011, after facing various challenges in its final few years – less than three years before that final shutdown, it reopened after a five-month shutdown caused by a February 2008 fire. That fire, in turn, came just days after the café ownership got word of the demise of a year-and-a-half-old development proposal that threatened to close the restaurant.

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Almost 1 year after Charlestown Café closure, site’s up for lease Mon, 12 Mar 2012 18:56:36 +0000

(April 2011 photo by Kathy Mulady for WSB)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Almost one full year after the “closed forever” sign went up on the Charlestown Street Café‘s door – a new sign is up on the property at 3800 California SW:

We noticed the sign over the weekend, as did others (two WSB’ers sent us notes – THANKS!), and this morning we spoke with John Wunder at Associates West, the West Seattle brokerage handling the just-launched search for someone new to lease the property.

Wunder confirms that the most recent development proposal for the site (reported here shortly after the restaurant’s closure last April) fell through, though he doesn’t know why, since his firm was not involved with it.

(We had asked the city about that mixed-use-building proposal’s status a while back, since the city’s website had an online notation that the application had been canceled; the prospective developer didn’t answer our calls/e-mails, and all the city could say was, the required fees hadn’t been paid, so the application was canceled. Three years earlier, a plan to build a new PETCO store on the site stalled before clearing Design Review.)

According to Wunder, there’s already “lots of interest” in the site – in fact, it was being shown again this morning, he said. He does not expect the site’s ownership (which he says has NOT changed) to come up with another development proposal any time soon – he believes “the right tenant” will likely get a 5-year lease, adding, “We’re hopeful it’ll be something the community will like. Hopefully another restaurant …”

Whatever goes in, they will be leasing the entire site – he says it’s “all or nothing.” The site’s been vacant since the café cleared out, except for a Christmas-tree lot that used the north-side parking area for a few weeks during the holiday season.

No listing online yet but Wunder expects it’ll appear sometime later today. (Meantime, you can call Associates West at the number on the sign if you’re interested.)

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Video: Charlestown Street Café leftovers auctioned Fri, 29 Apr 2011 20:52:40 +0000

Who’s taking home part of what’s left from the now-closed Charlestown Street Café? Above, that’s Donna from Giannoni’s Pizzeria in Westwood Village, with son LJ – who picked up several items, including tables and a huge salad spinner – and they weren’t the only local restaurateurs we spotted. There also were souvenir-seekers, like one West Seattleite who told us she was hoping to find something small, maybe a menu, though after wandering around the offerings during the preview time, she hadn’t found anything fitting that bill just yet.

By 10 am, the restaurant was fairly full, and as scheduled, the auction began, legendary local auctioneer James G. Murphy himself led the calling, with Ron Hannon at his side:

Here’s a wider look at their portable-podium-with-PA setup, plus the assistant who has to go find each item that’s being bid on, lifting it aloft till the bidding ends:

As of about quarter past twelve, the auction had moved into the kitchen. We’re going back shortly to check on whether it’s still going. Backstory in case you missed it: The café closed April 3rd, with its owner citing economic reasons (as well as the difficulty of operating without a long-term lease). There’s a development proposal in progress for the site; we reported last Monday on the plan.

2:30 PM UPDATE: Just stopped by. The remaining Murphy personnel on the site say the auction finished about an hour ago, and everything went except for a few countertops.

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Happening now: Charlestown Street Café auction preview Fri, 29 Apr 2011 16:26:31 +0000

A sight seen before at other notable shuttered businesses – the Corner Inn (2008 coverage here), the Gee/ex-Huling auto enterprises (2007 coverage here) – is outside the former Charlestown Street Café right now: The truck carrying equipment for James G. Murphy Auctioneers. In about half an hour, they’ll be taking bids on hundreds of items left over from the café operation, which shut down on April 3rd. The auction site opened for “previewing” at 8 this morning, and a few people were wandering through when we stopped by a little while ago:

The nearly 400 “lots” are cataloged online, too. As for the Charlestown site’s future – we reported Monday on a developer’s plan for a mixed-use building and zoning change.

12:49 PM UPDATE: We’re working on a separate story about the auction itself – which is still under way as of about 20 minutes ago (we went back to check)!

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Charlestown Café site’s future: Apartments, new café, new zoning? Mon, 25 Apr 2011 20:32:55 +0000 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

With the auction coming up Friday for what’s left inside the Charlestown Street Café, less than a month after it closed, we have new information about the future of its site.

In our first report on its then-imminent closure, we mentioned spotting a “mixed-use” development proposal in the city files. And now we’ve finally spoken to the developer who is working on it.

His name is Lobsang Dargey. His firm, Dargey Enterprises, is based in Everett, where they built Potala Village – not unlike, he told WSB, what’s envisioned for the California/Charlestown site (if you check their website, you will see this project identified as Potala Village-West Seattle).

But before the project ramps up – a change, he says, is needed:

The ex-café site is currently zoned for 30-foot development, and Dargey says he will apply later this year to have it rezoned to 40 feet. He mentioned specifically the recently approved rezoning of a block-plus of California SW, just two blocks north, and cited the same factor that local developers/realtors Mike Gain and Roger Cayce had cited in that case – the extra height is needed for the project to make sense financially.

Dargey, by the way, says he does his own financing, through the EB-5 program; as noted in this 2009 Puget Sound Business Journal profile, he grew up in Tibet and came to the U.S. in 1997. He does not own the West Seattle site; he says he’ll develop it as a joint venture with its owner, the Strickland Corporation.

The apartments he envisions would be “high-end,” and “built green,” using “100 percent recycled materials,” and built to LEED standards, silver or maybe even platinum. It’s projected for about 100 units over retail. He hopes the retail space would include “some kind of café,” in the spirit of the Charlestown. The first floor, as you can see in the online sketches of his projects, would have brick facades (as does Charlestown Center, kitty-corner from the ex-café site).

The West Seattle proposal remains in very early stages – no formal application has been submitted, though Dargey says they have met a few times with the city. He stresses that his firm prides itself on working with the neighborhood, so he is hoping to have a neighborhood meeting and says he plans to reach out to the Admiral Neighborhood Association. He would also like to hear ideas on what the neighborhood would want to see in this type of development, and invites e-mail (, as listed here). “I want the neighborhood to support it,” he says. “I don’t want to fight with people.”

Overall, Dargey says they would hope to be able to bring in retailers/services that residents could use – with the development built in a “pedestrian-friendly” layout. Dargey says the site has lots of potential because of the amenities already nearby – schools as well as businesses, including PCC Natural Markets (WSB sponsor) and the new Safeway store. He is familiar with the previous development proposal for the site – the PETCO store that was eventually shelved (they’ve now signed for a new Junction location) – and says “big-box” like that doesn’t make sense for the site.

He is finishing a Kirkland project, before immersing more fully into West Seattle. He says it’ll meet LEED Silver standards and will be nonsmoking – the first such mixed-use building in the area. (It’s also online, as Potala Village-Kirkland, with the units described as “luxury apartments.”)

Until this one revs up later in the year – probably by July or August, he expects to apply for the rezone – you can watch the project’s two files on the city website, land-use here, construction here.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about “Potala”? It’s from Dargey’s Tibetan heritage: Potala Palace is a World Heritage Site that for centuries served as a palace for the Dalai Lama.

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Own a piece of the Charlestown Street Café: Auction set April 29 Thu, 14 Apr 2011 19:47:46 +0000

Thanks to the WSB’er who called (206-293-6302, 24/7) to let us know that the Charlestown Street Café has just turned up on the schedule for auctioneers James G. Murphy Co. (And thanks to Rob, who just sent a note about the same thing.) The auction is scheduled at the restaurant site (California/Charlestown) at 10 am April 29th, after a two-hour preview period 8-10 am. The full catalog is not online yet, but some items are up for preview right now. (In case you missed it, the café “closed forever” – as the paper-plate sign in our photo declared – on April 3rd, with owner Ron Hanlon citing the economy.) Murphy handles many auctions in our region, and this announcement revives memories of the auction for another beloved longtime restaurant – the Corner Inn, back in 2008 (WSB coverage here).

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‘Thank you, West Seattle’: Charlestown Street Café’s final day Mon, 04 Apr 2011 03:41:41 +0000 (Earlier coverage: First customers on the last morning, here; midday update, here)

Story and photos by Kathy Mulady
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

At 2:45 p.m. today, the last meal was cooked and served at Webster’s Charlestown Street Café.

Hesper Guerra, a waitress at the restaurant for two decades, raised a little plastic glass of apple cider, tears sliding down her cheeks, and gave a toast. The staff gathered behind her raised their glasses, and dabbed their own tears.

The last customers of the restaurant left slowly, shaking hands with owner Ron Hanlon, sharing their thoughts on what the restaurant has meant to them.

“The food is great, but the love is better,” said Debbie Coscorrosa, who followed Hanlon from Webster’s restaurant to the Charlestown.

Deacon Dean Hard of First Lutheran Church in West Seattle had breakfast every morning at the Charlestown, and often came back for lunch or dinner. He has been a regular for 21 years.

“I had to be here for the final fling,” he said. “I’ve watched Hesper and Tama grow up here. The kitchen staff is behind the scenes, but they are the best. It is a true, true family here.” Deacon Hard said he isn’t sure where he will go for future meals, but thinks he “might go bug Jack Miller at Husky Deli for a while.”

West Seattle composer Bobby Weinberg gave Hesper and Tama Warrior big hugs as he left. “I’ve been friends with Ron as long as I can remember,” said Weinberg.

Bob Miller and Jaunita Ludwig said they never had a bad meal at the Charlestown, They too have been customers for 20 years.

Hanlon autographed a menu for longtime customer Jim Lockerbie.

“This is an institution,” said Lockerbie.

Hanlon invited customers and staff to take their favorite pictures that decorate the walls. One customer bought the mirror in the women’s bathroom. Hanlon said he sold 30 chairs to a church for their choir.

Others bought frozen bags of the beloved award-winning clam chowder to take home for future dinners.

Many customers left their e-mail addresses, hoping to stay in touch with their favorite servers, and possible news of the crew opening a new restaurant somewhere else in West Seattle.

By 4 pm, the kitchen was cleaned. The last customer was gone, but the front door was still wide open. The staff gathered at tables for final farewells and hugs. Most don’t have new jobs yet and aren’t sure what they will be doing next.

Hanlon knows what’s next on his list: 32 years on his feet in the restaurant has taken a toll on his knees. He is having knee replacement surgery in two weeks, then a long recovery.

After that, he’s not sure.

“I’m only 65, I’m not done,” Hanlon said.

Previous WSB coverage of the Charlestown Street Cafe’s ups and downs over the past four years is archived here, newest to oldest (scroll down the page), including first word just one week ago that Hanlon would shut it down. The site’s fate has not been officially announced; as we noted last weekend, city online records indicate a mixed-use development proposal was floated last year.

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Update: Meals, tears, hugs during Charlestown Café’s final day Sun, 03 Apr 2011 19:23:10 +0000 (Our first report, as the café’s doors opened one last time this morning, is here)

Story and photos by Kathy Mulady
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

The scene at the Charlestown Street Café is dramatically different a few hours later as fans crowded through the doors for a final Sunday morning breakfast.

Servers swiftly seated customers, teared up while taking orders, and hugged their “regulars” goodbye.

Among those giving and getting hugs: JoAnne Morrison (pink vest), who picketed in front of the Charlestown a few years ago to stop the landlord from demolishing the restaurant, came in for the last breakfast and ordered a spinach omelette. “Everyone is so friendly and nice, I just got to know everyone,” Morrison said.

Morrison said she had breakfast every Sunday at the Charlestown, and often for lunch or dinner during the week as well. From now on, she will probably just make breakfast at home on Sunday, she said.

Owner Ron Hanlon was out getting more groceries, said waitress Tama Warrior, who was working her final shift, along with Hesper Guerra. We’ll try to catch up with him later as he prepares to lock the front door of the cafe for the last time today.

5:55 PM UPDATE: We’ll publish Kathy’s final update a bit later this evening; she says the doors did not close at 3 pm spot-on, nor for a while afterward, but we went back a little while ago and found the final sign on the finally closed door:

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Final day for the Charlestown Street Café: Open for business Sun, 03 Apr 2011 14:06:31 +0000

Two people were waiting outside when the Charlestown Street Café opened moments ago for its final day in business after 32 years (and two more followed them in a moment later).

Everything’s up and running despite last night’s power problem. First in line, arriving about 20 minutes before 7, was Mike (photo above), doing a puzzle while he waited; he told us he had just decided he “might as well come here the last day.” We’ll be checking in during the day; the restaurant is scheduled to close its doors for good at 3 pm, with a note on the door sternly warning “last seating at 2:30 pm.” As we first reported one week ago, owner Ron Hanlon says the economy has done what first a development threat and then a fire couldn’t do – force the popular café’s doors to close.

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No last dinner at Charlestown Café: Closed tonight, no power Sun, 03 Apr 2011 01:41:00 +0000

6:41 PM: Tonight, the Charlestown Street Café was to be serving its last dinners, since it’s closing for good at 3 pm tomorrow – but when Dave got there a little while ago, he found that note on its door, saying it’s closed tonight because the power is out, back in the morning at 7 am. (The outage is shown on the City Light map – just one customer, just that spot, “cause unknown.”)

7:59 PM UPDATE: WSB contributor Kathy Mulady, who’s covered the Charlestown’s travails since 2006 and reported the WSB followup after the closure announcement, talked to the Seattle City Light crews that are on scene right now. They told her a transformer blew and they’re waiting for a new one. Oddly, Kathy adds, the outage didn’t affect the big sign out front. It, perhaps defiantly, blazes on.

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Charlestown Café followup: Day after the closure announcement Tue, 29 Mar 2011 03:46:48 +0000 West Seattle journalist Kathy Mulady has reported on the Charlestown Street Café‘s ups and downs over the past five years, for the Seattle P-I and for WSB. Following up on our Sunday report of the café’s imminent closure, she went there today to cover the first day since the bad news hit.

(Café owner Ron Hanlon and longtime staffer Shavaun Bartlett)
Story and photos by Kathy Mulady
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

Ron Hanlon is done, and so is the Charlestown Street Café he has owned for more than 30 years.

Customers strolling in for their regular breakfast or lunch today were stunned by the note on the door announcing that the restaurant that has been so much a part of their lives will be closing for good at 3 p.m. next Sunday, April 3 (as reported here yesterday morning).

Hanlon said he will stay open long enough to serve a final meal to the after-church crowd, but that’s it. There will be no last-minute rescue this time.

“It’s very sad. This has been a community gathering spot for a long time. The landlord wants to move on,” said Hanlon. “A long-term lease for us is out of the question.”

The last four years have been a roller coaster for Hanlon and his regulars.

The business survived threats of demolition, a kitchen fire that closed the restaurant for four months, and was finally done in by a sour economy that refuses to rebound.

“The bottom fell out of the economy and we never recovered,” said Hanlon, who turned 65 this year, but insists he isn’t ready to retire.

Just a few weeks ago he bought new chairs for the restaurant, thinking that he would keep going.

He told the staff a week ago that the restaurant will close.

“I agonized over the decision for a year,” he said. “I am exhausted.”

Hanlon started in West Seattle 32 years ago at the White Spot at SW Alaska and Fauntleroy Way SW. His loyal customers followed him when he opened Webster’s on California, and later to the Charlestown Street Café.

Waitresses Hesper Guerra and Tama Warrior have worked with Hanlon for 20 years each, since they were in high school. They talked about taking over the restaurant, but the economy, needed building repairs, and the month-to-month lease made it too risky financially.

“Maybe Hesper and I will reopen another place with this same feel and a long lease sometime in the future,” said Tama, who is known to some customers and staff as “Mama Charlestown.”

“It breaks my heart to think of what might happen to some of our elderly customers who come in all the time, where will they go?” Warrior wondered.

Families and friends have celebrated and commiserated over breakfast, lunch and dinners here for generations. It’s common to see three or more generations of a family walk in the door. And Hanlon knows them all.

The Charlestown Street Cafe is one of the rare centrally located West Seattle restaurants with its own spacious parking lot.

Karen Rice and her brother Don Rice of West Seattle were among Hanlon’s first customers. The Rices still meet at the café for breakfast weekly, sometimes several times a week.

“All the food is good,” they said, finishing up plates of biscuits and gravy.

“I like the service, all the guys and gals who work here are great,” said Karen Rice.

They looked at each other in sad silence when asked where they will meet for breakfast when the Charlestown is done.

“I really don’t know,” said Karen.

Rob Hendricks, sitting on a stool at the counter, said he really isn’t sure where he will go either. He’s been coming to the Charlestown for 15 years. It is the good food and good service that keeps bringing him back, too.

He thought when the café reopened after the fire that it would be around for a good long time.

“I thought we had skated by,” he said. “I have no clue where I will go when it closes.”

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West Seattle restaurants: Charlestown Café closing Sun, 27 Mar 2011 18:55:04 +0000

(ADDED 12:41 PM: The note on the Charlestown Café door)
Thanks to the WSB’ers who called and e-mailed with this news, which we have just confirmed: The Charlestown Café is closing its doors. A sign on its front door says that it’ll be shutting down as of 3 pm next Sunday (April 3rd) and blames economic conditions. It’s endured a lot in recent years – first a development threat that rallied community support for the restaurant; then, shortly after word that the development plan was dropped, a 2008 fire closed the café for months. One year after its reopening, we followed up with owner Ron Hanlon, who candidly discussed the economic challenges (including the fact he had a month-by-month lease).

(WSB photo from 2009)
ADDED 3:51 PM: Rooting around now to see if there’s any hint at the site’s future. City files show some activity last June on a proposal for a “mixed-use multifamily building with commercial on the ground floor,” but no dated activity since then – we’ll be checking tomorrow to see if this is an active proposal. There’s no indication in online records of any change in ownership. The proposal that surfaced in 2006 ultimately emerged as a single-story building that was to be a new home for Petco; the plan was dropped in early 2008, and as reported here a month ago, Petco is moving to Capco Plaza at 41st/Alaska.

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