The listing agent says a buyer could keep the place the same or try an entirely new concept there, though a redevelopment seems unlikely.
Seattle’s Cafe Racer is up for sale, and the future of the business is now unclear, five years after a shooting spree inside the cafe left four customers dead and led to an outpouring of community support.
The University District cafe, bar and restaurant — long a hangout for musicians and artists — had been crippled financially as of late. It launched an online fundraising campaign in November, raising $33,000 to stay afloat but falling short of its $50,000 goal.
This week, the cafe was listed for sale for $135,000. Kurt Geissel, who owns the business but not the land, on Tuesday posted a note on Facebook citing family concerns, responsibilities with his second job at the University of Washington, and the desire to do other things, such as working on his art. The funding issues continue, and Geissel said he doesn’t have the energy he used to.
Dozens of comments quickly poured into the Facebook page, with commenters hoping the cafe is preserved. First as Lucky Dog and then Cafe Racer, it’s been a local fixture for 14 years.
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“I don’t have any say as to what the new person would do,” Geissel said in an interview. “But I’m hoping that somebody from the community will come up and say, ‘We can’t let it die.’ I’m hoping there is somebody out there that wants to keep it just the way it is. That’d be my dream.”
Listing agent David Smith, a broker with Coldwell Banker Bain, said someone could buy the 2,500-square-foot restaurant on Roosevelt Way Northeast and put their own mark on it or change the concept entirely.
“Somebody could take it and go a lot of different ways with it,” Smith said.
While the area is zoned to allow for low-rise apartments or town homes, the land doesn’t come with the sale — making a teardown option less likely.
The property’s absentee landlord recently declined to buy an adjacent house that would have made a redevelopment more viable.
Smith knows the history of the building might not make it the easiest sell.
On May 30, 2012, Ian Stawicki, a regular at the cafe, shot and killed four bandmates and other customers in the cafe and injured the chef, before killing another person in a downtown parking lot. He then killed himself later that day as police closed in.
“It’s going to be a turnoff for some people maybe, but to some people it might not be,” Smith said. “For the right person, I think it’s a good fit, I really do. Someone can take that to the next level.”
Geissel initially considered closing the place after the shooting.
Then there was an outpouring of support, and the cafe reopened a month and a half later.
“I think we all did a really good job of moving on, and keeping the spirit there,” Geissel said. “All those guys being gone and absent from the place, really took a lot out of me, and it took a lot out of the raw talent that was just there. Them not being there, left a hole in there, definitely.”
Geissel worked to raise money to help end gun violence, even filming himself buying a gun and sawing it in half as performance art.
A year ago, he said the “PTSD kicked in” when he got an anonymous letter with threats from an apparent gun-rights troll.
Geissel said last year that he incurred debt retrofitting and re-permitting the building, while nearby construction hurt foot traffic and caused business to dive. He said he needed the donations to avoid closure, and the money received helped pay the bills since.
He said he’s sad but is ready to move on. He even offered to give the new owner his recipe for corned-beef hash.
“The outpouring of love and support from the community (after the shooting) was amazing and the fact that we, as a community, were able to come back from it shows that there is a need for places like Cafe Racer in the world,” Geissel said in his note Tuesday.