by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Whenever a business closes after 22 years of operating in the same neighborhood - especially a neighborhood as vibrant and close-knit as Seattle's Capitol Hill - the news is taken hard. Such is the case with The Grill on Broadway.
On April 23, The Grill on Broadway owner, Matthew Walsh, announced that the Capitol Hill LGBT icon would close its doors for good this Sunday, April 28. It is expected that 35 people will lose their jobs.
Here is the official statement:
What you've read, or may soon read, is true. After 22 years, we're closing the doors at The Grill on Broadway this Sunday night the 28th.
In spite of what it may seem, we're a very small business. We don't have endless financial resources to keep us afloat like a chain restaurant or large corporation could. We spent our life savings to bring the restaurant back from what it had become and it's heartbreaking that we cannot continue. We appreciate the love and support shown to The Grill on Broadway over the years from the Capitol Hill community, and the many friends we have made who have truly become part of the huge extended 'Grill Family' - that includes our incredible staff of hardworking, talented and amazing servers, bartenders and kitchen staff, in addition to every loyal regular who steps through our door. It's with a huge and profound sadness that we must end this amazing journey.
Please join us this week for a dinner and/or a cocktail. We're planning some special things this week, and we hope you can join us.
Thanks again for an amazing run ...
A SIGN OF THE TIMES?
News of the popular restaurant's closure spread quickly as messages of support and calls to 'save the Grill' came in from loyal customers - new and old. At the core of it all, however, is the feeling that perhaps the Hill really is becoming less Gay. With the rise of condo building after condo building, newcomers are moving in and bringing with them their ideals, their friends, and their ... sexual orientation.
Now, before you misread what I am saying, I want to be clear: Gay does not equal better or best. Neither does heterosexual. I am simply saying that culturally, the Hill seems to be going through some changes - one of which is the influence of straight people and their ideas of what fun is, compared to Gays. The Grill on Broadway is the perfect example.
I met with Matthew Walsh less than a year ago and we talked about how The Grill had, at one time, strayed away from being 'Gay' and how, as Pride 2012 approached, he realized that that was the wrong direction. It was time to Gay it up from then on out - and boy, did they! The Grill on Broadway was, in its last incarnation, one of the Gayest places on Earth - one where everyone was welcome, however. With all the rainbow flags, which Walsh proudly let wave months after Pride had come and gone, the customers knew exactly where they were and exactly what The Grill on Broadway was about.
So why didn't it work? Hell, with shows like 'Mimosas With Mama' (an extremely entertaining and well-attended Sunday brunch drag show) and a talent contest ($1,000 cash prize!) the place seemed to be doing all right. Walsh even convinced people to start their weekend evenings off at The Grill. In a city like Seattle, with a severe shortage of Gay lounges, The Grill on Broadway fit the bill for many small shows, specialty parties, and more.
In fact, Walsh admits they were making money. The place wasn't drowning in debt or anything. The Walsh Creative Group just got sold a bad deal, is all. 'These things happen,' he said.
Former Grill owner Debbie Augustavo sold the family business to Walsh, who used to work for her as a server, in 2010, as the restaurant began to fall from the neighborhood's good graces.
'Despite a recent upturn in business and community awareness, due to improved food, service, and entertainment options, severe financial obligations imposed by previously undiscovered mechanical, structural and operational issues associated with the business, prior to The Walsh Creative Group's takeover in 2010, have resulted in additional, unforeseen expenses that have totaled into the hundreds of thousands of dollars,' The Walsh Creative Group said this week in a statement.
'Since 2010, The Grill on Broadway, under Walsh's supervision, spent countless hours and dollars supporting local charities and organizations, raising more than a quarter-million dollars for vital community service groups.'
'There isn't a minute that goes by that I don't recognize the profound impact that The Grill has had on the Capitol Hill neighborhood and Seattle's LGBTQ community for the last two decades,' said Walsh. 'I wanted The Grill to not just be a restaurant, and not just a bar, but also an active member of the community. We've been honored to serve an extraordinary and diverse community.'
The Grill on Broadway participated in Thursday's Dining Out for Life benefit for the Lifelong AIDS Alliance.
For many, the timing of the announcement was odd. With Pride 2013 approaching, some might think that The Grill could've turned things around. This was not possible, says Grill officials.
The Capitol Hill Seattle (CHS) Blog reports, 'CHS reached one of the partners in the company that owns the property, who said he was aware of the restaurant's decision to close but did not want to comment on the situation or future plans for 314 Broadway E. at this time.'
In addition, CHS says, 'A representative tells us the timing of the closure was strictly a logistical decision based on mundane elements like payroll schedules and the like. Given costs and the business's trajectory, it wasn't apparently worth hanging on through Pride and summer.'
Regardless, the fact remains that Seattle's Capitol Hill is losing a veteran. Twenty-two years is a long time, especially in the restaurant business. It is the hope of this writer, and I'm sure many of you reading this, that whoever moves into the space does so keeping in mind the neighborhood, its history, and that we aren't too keen on seeing yet another corporate franchise come to the Hill.
Seattle Gay News would like to wish The Walsh Creative Group all the best as they move on to other projects. Thanks for the memories!
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