After a quarter of a century, Seattle’s Joe Bar will close its doors forever at the end of the day on Oct. 26. Ensconced in the historic Loveless Building on Capitol Hill, the tiny space with the welcoming green walls and twinned miniature balconies has won a huge place in the neighborhood’s heart, with an outpouring of love meeting the announcement earlier this week of its impending ending.

“I don’t quite have the words to express how much the Joe Bar community means to me and how much that little vessel that is Joe Bar fills me with joy,” wrote Wylie Bush, who worked at the cafe from the beginning and took over as owner 22 years ago (and was quick to credit manager Devon Beck as “Joe Bar’s ever-steadfast rock”).

“But,” Bush’s announcement continued, “my love and spirit can no longer keep the reality of business and those who lord over the land in check.”

Going on to express his “profound gratitude” to the “dozens of dedicated employees and thousands of enthusiastic customers… [who’ve] helped make it their own funky refuge, hospitable and dependable in an insanely changing city,” Bush contended that Joe Bar truly belonged to its community. That community is answering with its own deep gratefulness and no small measure of sorrow. Among the hundreds of tributes left to the place on social media:

“Joe Bar is home, and it brings tears to my eyes to imagine not getting to stop in for a tea and a chat. Endless beautiful moments and friendships live in those walls. I can’t thank you enough for being a steadfast community pillar — while this one hurts endlessly, we sure did have a damn good time.”

“Of course, I support the change and the end and also my heart hurts… thank you Wylie, for bringing us a sense of heart and home for so many years.”

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“I feel like crying. My favorite coffee shop in the world. Best coffee, employees, vibe, art, location, energy … all that. We’ve been so lucky. Thank you all [heart]”

The art mentioned in that last one — which happens to be from devoted customer Macklemore — has been an instrumental part of Joe Bar’s connection to the lives around it, with a series of four curators hanging the work of local artists in countless salon-style shows over the years. With displays ranging from the output of Cornish students to collections of food-related art, Joe Bar’s walls have helped launch the careers of artists including Rodrigo Valenzuela, Nikita Ares and Ilana Zweschi, all while promoting cultural engagement at a grassroots level. Curators have been remunerated by Joe Bar in the form of a lot of coffee and many, many crêpes, with none of the sales from artworks going to the cafe’s till. Occasionally, Joe Bar even hosted “Tiny Dances,” with contemporary performances occupying the very limited space, snaking up the steep stairways onto the “Being John Malkovich”-proportioned balconies.

As for the reason for the closure, Bush says by phone, “We barely squeaked through the pandemic — two years — thanks to the Triple P [the federally funded Paycheck Protection Program].” After that, “Joe Bar had run its course, unfortunately,” he says. “It needed — I don’t know. I don’t even know what to say. It’s just sad — I’m just sad.”

On an afternoon earlier this week, the line was out the door and onto the sidewalk, where the trees dispatched autumn leaves. Friends met friends by chance, even more so than usual, and people took photos and videos of the interior to share. Limited-edition copies of a print entitled “Joe Bar 1997-TBD” by Charles Spitzack — depicting the view of the world from inside the cafe’s big old-fashioned windows, it’s part of the last art show, entitled “The End” — appeared to be on their way to selling out. 

“I think we’re going to be busy all day, every day for the next two weeks,” barista Corbin Schmidt said in answer to a patron’s question. “Luckily, too busy to feel it.”