Café Racer, the scene of a mass shooting five years ago, will shut down after 14 years in business. The arty dive bar in the University District will have its last call Wednesday night.

Share story

After he made it official on Facebook that Wednesday night would be the last night for Café Racer, owner Kurt Geissel was still hoping a buyer would step up at the last minute to save the arty dive bar.

But who are we kidding? Geissel said he can’t keep waiting for a buyer. He can’t let the debts pile up to save a place out of nostalgia. “I just don’t have the energy anymore,” he said during a phone interview. “It’s just taken its toll. I couldn’t support it anymore.”

After 14 years, Café Racer will have its last call Wednesday night, Oct. 18, at midnight, though Geissel has a feeling this goodbye might go on until 2 a.m. if all the online condolences are any indication.

Five years ago, Café Racer was the scene of a mass shooting when a mentally ill gunman opened fire and killed four people at this University District coffee shop and bar. But that’s its legacy only to outsiders, Geissel said.

To regulars and lifers, Café Racer was memorable for its contribution to the arts, everything from the monthly opera night to the weekly Dungeons & Dragons meetup, he said. “Two couples got married there. And a lot of other couples have met there. A lot of people have told me that ‘This place has made a huge difference in my life.’ ”

Contrary to reports, Geissel said the shooting didn’t scare customers away. He said he incurred debt retrofitting and re-permitting the building. Business also dropped last year after the street construction on Roosevelt Way Northeast made it tougher to access the bar for nine months, he said. And it was “also the neighborhood changing,” he said. “Everybody used to live a couple blocks of the place. Now, nobody can afford to live there anymore.”