Easy Street Records, a mainstay of Seattle's thriving popular music scene and one of the few record stores left in the city, is closing its Lower Queen Anne branch.

Easy Street Records, a mainstay of Seattle’s thriving popular music scene and one of the few record stores left in the city, is closing its Lower Queen Anne branch.

“They wanted a long-term lease,” said store owner Matt Vaughan of his landlord, Diamond Parking. “The rent that was being asked was significantly higher.”

Vaughan declined to say what the rent was or by what percentage it would go up. But for each of the past two years, the store has signed a one-year lease at a rent he says the store could afford. A new tenant — Chase Bank — agreed to the new terms. Easy Street’s last day of operation at its 20 Mercer Street location will be Jan. 18.

Easy Street has been on Queen Anne for 12 years. Its other store, which remains in West Seattle, has been there since 1988.

Vaughan said the Queen Anne store did good business in 2012 but that it could not absorb a rent increase.

“What’s happened to South Lake Union has impacted real estate in the surrounding area,” he said. “There’s a commercial real-estate boom happening here in Seattle and for guys like myself it becomes too difficult to consider being in locations like the one I have here.”

Vaughan investigated alternative Seattle locations, as well as ones in New York and Los Angeles, but in the end, “nothing panned out.”

The store’s closing marks a bittersweet end to 2012, when the lively shop was named King County Small Business of the Year and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn proclaimed Dec. 20 Easy Street Records Day.

Known for in-store performances by name acts, Easy Street will host the New Jersey indie rockers Yo La Tengo on its final day.

“We’re going out with our head held high,” said Vaughan. “This wasn’t a case of diminishing sales or lack of inventory or anything like that.”

The store will start marking down its inventory by 15 percent Thursday and plans to auction off the record bins and promotional materials Jan. 19.

Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or pdebarros@seattletimes.com