THEY ARE THE taverns, bars and restaurants that emotionally tug at you.

Then: Oh, no. It’s shutting down.

Back in 2016, Cynthia Brothers, a 1999 Garfield High graduate, started the Facebook page Vanishing Seattle. Her first post was about the closing that year of a Filipino restaurant on North Beacon Hill called Inay’s Asian Pacific Cuisine.

“It was a very uniquely Seattle place that served the Beacon Hill community, the Asian community, the queer community,” she says.

Since then, the Vanishing Seattle Facebook page has attracted 29,000 followers.

Brothers, 41, who works on administering immigrant justice grants with the Four Freedoms Fund, says she understands why closures of legacy places affect Seattleites so viscerally.

“For them, it’s more than just commerce or transactional,” Brothers says. “These are the places where they went with their family, that functioned as a neighborhood gathering place. They feel at home there.”

This is a story about four legacy places that beat, or are trying to beat, the odds on closing. It hasn’t been easy.

All roads did lead to Seattle’s Dog House — but then that closed, too

The Northlake Tavern & Pizza House

SOMETIME THIS SPRING, if all the repairs and remodeling have gone according to plan, this historic spot will have reopened as Big Mario’s Northlake.

Things could have turned out considerably differently for this historic joint, frequented for seven decades by UW students.

When the two-story, 3,400-square-foot building at 660 N.E. Northlake Way went up for sale late last year, the asking price was $1.5 million.

Says owner Cheryl Winzenread, “One of the people who approached me wanted to put in a dog day care, or something to do with dogs. They felt it would be the perfect location. I said no. I wanted it to be kept as a pizza place.”

She says representatives from the University of Washington came looking around, too, presumably for UW’s ever-expanding campus.


Then came the offer for $1.35 million from Jason Lajeunesse, founder and CEO of Daydream State, with properties that include not just three Mario’s places in Seattle, but also other spots on Capitol Hill: the Comet Tavern, the Neumos music venue and the Lost Lake Café & Lounge.


You won’t get the six-pound sagging Logger Special pizza of the Northlake of old, packed with Canadian bacon and Italian beef sausage. There will be changes. Now it’ll be thin-crust New York-style pizza.

On Jan. 31, the last day of business for the Northlake, its fans began gathering outside at 8:30 in the morning to wait in line. By the time the doors opened at 11, the line snaked around the corner of the block. By 3 p.m. it was over, a sign taped on cardboard: “Out of ingredients.”

This was a UW place. It’s a five- to six-minute walk from the nearby Terry, Maple, Lander and Alder UW residence halls that together house some 2,500 undergrads.

This was a place in which on that last day of business, staffers reminisced about local celebrities they said had been customers: Warren Moon, Christine Gregoire, the “Deadliest Catch” guys, Chip Hanauer, Jay Buhner, Brock Huard, Jim Lambright.

Jeremy Briggs, a bartender, said Bill Gates came in and “bought all the tables around him” for privacy. “They were talking about virtual reality.” Maybe. It all adds to the folklore.


Winzenread, 78, of Des Moines, and her late husband bought the business and the building in 1987, when she was Cheryl Berkovich, married to Matt Berkovich. The seller was an ex-Merchant Marine from Brooklyn, N.Y., named Herb Friedman. He was the one who in 1960 had added the signature colossal pizza to the beer and wine joint.

In 2016, after health battles and decades in the business, Winzenread decided it was time to retire. She kept the building but sold the business for $300,000 to a longtime employee who had started there 42 years ago as dishwasher, then went on to become a cook and finally manager.

That was Abdoullah Abdoullah, now 70, an immigrant from Vietnam who came here in 1970 and studied mechanical engineering at the UW. When his money ran short, Abdoullah went to work at the Northlake.

But then health woes forced him to call it quits. He has trouble talking and walking because of Parkinson’s disease.

The Northlake had to be sold. Abdoullah says he still owed some $100,000 on the $300,000 purchase. Winzenread forgave the debt.

Lajeunesse says he plans to keep the Northlake’s decor intact but add new seating, replace the tattered carpeting, include liquor in addition to the beer and wine, and add a pizza slice window and an outdoor patio. He has told the Northlake staffers they can stay on.


Abdoullah now lives with his brother, Abdoul Gafour, in Kent.

Legacy joints can’t continue if the owner can’t.

“If he was healthy, he’d keep on working,” Gafour says about Abdoullah. “The Northlake was his life.”

IT’S GREAT TO venerate a fabled joint such as this one in the University District. Problem is, memories of the good old days don’t pay the bills.

The Blue Moon opened in April 1934 at 712 N.E. 45th St. The location was very important because back then, state law banned alcohol sales within 1 mile of the UW. It was just over the line.

Blue Moon

Tim Dooley, 50, took over the business in November 2021. He used to be, and sometimes still is, a bartender there.

Most days, Dooley gets there by noon to do sweeping and paperwork before opening at 4.

“We’re losing money every month. It’s not a good situation,” he says. “I just cross my fingers every morning, hoping things will get better.”


The pandemic eased, and the old regulars didn’t come back.

“I don’t know. Some moved away, a lot of them passed away, others found other places to drink,” says Dooley.

This was the place where poet Theodore Roethke, a regular, was said to have celebrated his 1954 Pulitzer. Dylan Thomas and Allen Ginsberg were said to have visited when passing through Seattle.

Dooley bought the business for $120,000 from Emma Hellthaler, who had bought it from her dad, Gustav Hellthaler. Gustav was one of three partners who went by Three Fools, Inc., and in 1982 saved the Blue Moon from yet another demise.

Emma loved the place, proudly explaining, “I was born because of the Blue Moon. My mother’s water broke at the front door.” She worked at the joint at age 11, washing hand towels and reupholstering stools. At age 21, she was tending bar.

But then, in October 2021, Justin Denewith, her common-law husband, who already had suffered a traumatic brain injury after a fall, died.


It was too much. Hellthaler was struggling with the tavern closing during the pandemic and selling only coffee at a walk-up window.

Says Dooley, “She called me one morning. ‘You need to buy the bar from me, or I put it on the open market.’ ”

Every month, Dooley faces the finances: $3,000 for Emma. $5,000 for rent. Labor. Liquor costs. Utilities.

He used to be a landscaper. Dooley says he might return to that a couple of days a week to make ends meet.

He’s turned to booking live music, the bands getting the door fees and the tavern the booze sales. “Sometimes there are more band members than fans,” says Dooley.

But he keeps showing up every day.

“Yesterday, between 4 and 8, I think I had six customers,” says Dooley.


Yesterday’s ghosts don’t buy beer.


IT WAS ALL GOING great until the evening of June 12, 2022. Then there was the devastating fire.

Up until that Sunday, Vito’s, the beloved legendary restaurant, was back — renovated, energized, ready for many more decades.

All the sweat and labor that business partners Greg Lundgren and Jeff Scott had put into the place when they reopened it in September 2010 were paying off.

The crowds were back, hanging around the Yamaha concert grand piano the two owners had purchased for $30,000 as a centerpiece for lounge singing.

In its heyday from the 1950s into the ’70s, the place used to be, says a profile in HistoryLink, “a smoky, convivial clubhouse where politicians and lawyers rubbed elbows with cabbies, bookies and priests, and where regulars hobnobbed over platters of Italian food, jugs of wine and stiff drinks.”

The restaurant was named after Vito Santoro, who, with his brother Jimmy, took over the place in 1953.


Declining health forced Vito to sell the famed restaurant in 1994. It changed hands several times, each owner running Vito’s “farther into the ground,” says the HistoryLink essay. Real violence took place. There was a drive-by shooting in 2008, and a fatal shooting that same year inside Vito’s.

Lundgren, 53, who’s an artist and entrepreneur (he and Scott own The Hideout Lounge on Capitol Hill, and Lundgren is a co-producer of this year’s Bumbershoot), says he made sure he went to Vito’s when he turned 21.

“I always looked at Vito’s as something very rare to Seattle, something worth preserving and protecting,” he says. He remembers thinking, “Somebody should restore it. Bring it back to what it used to be.”

That somebody would be the two men. “The reality was that every surface needed restoration. The booths had not been reupholstered since 1953. Everything was on its last legs.”

He’s proud of the job they did, 12-hour days during which they ended up covered in paint.

But on that Sunday just a few months ago, at 8:23 p.m., a fire took place in Unit 417 of the four-story Madison Apartments at 823 Madison St. More than 100 firefighters battled it, cutting through the roof and tearing down the ceiling. Thousands of gallons of water poured down all the floors.


The fire department said the fire was accidental, after “an open flame tipped over onto a mattress.” Eight residents in the 63 apartments were injured, including three seriously.

The entire building now is boarded up, water and electricity shut off, and its future is uncertain.

The owners of the building, VBC Madison LP, which shares the same Tacoma address as Vaughn Bay Construction, did not return a message for comment.

But on Jan. 13, an architect representing the firm submitted a conference application to the city’s Department of Construction & Inspections. To be discussed? Not only repairs but also demolition.

After the fire, squatters and vandals broke into the building. Copper wiring was one of the targets, says Lundgren.

“Someone built a small fire in the dining room,” he says. And that beautiful grand piano? “It’s now legless and keyless and topless.”


He says the business was insured, but, “Insurance only takes you so far.” If the building is torn down, “We’ve lost hundreds of thousands.”

Lundgren described a recent visit to the restaurant: “It looked like a ruin, like a looted, waterlogged war zone. There’s mold and mildew, everything broken, covering the floors. Because there’s no electricity, you’re walking around with a flashlight like in a horror film.”

If it’s demolition, that’s it for Vito’s. Lundgren won’t consider starting it up in another location.

“Vito’s is largely defined by the space it inhabited. If that space goes away, you’d have a Disneyland version of a 1950s nightclub. I don’t have interest in that,” he says.

College Inn Pub

WHEN IT COMES TO saving a legacy joint, here is a success story.

It easily could have gone the other way for this bar that opened some 50 years ago (the exact date is vague) a block from the UW campus at the corner of University Way Northeast and Northeast 40th Street.


To get to the pub, you walked down 21 steps to the basement of the instantly recognizable, three-story, Tudor-style College Inn with 26 hotel rooms. It’s the only commercial building left standing from the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909 held at the UW campus.

The pandemic hit the College Inn Pub hard. With few students on campus, there were no customers.

On July 23, 2020, owners Shea Wilson and Anders Lorenson called it quits, the pub already having been closed for months because of the pandemic. They wrote on the pub’s Facebook page:

“   … Without a vibrant University of Washington community in full force on campus, we cannot be a profitable business … Without you we were nothing more than a hole in the ground with beer in it … ”

More than 300 customers posted memories:

● “The College Inn Pub was ever-present in my life as a UW undergrad and then during law school … My husband and I had our first date there on Oct. 13, 1989.”

● “I’m so sad. This place was where the first year Physics grad students would go for Monday night nachos and beer to drown our sorrows.”


But within days of the announced closure, three friends had one of those what-if conversations. What if they took over the lease?

They were Jen Gonyer, whose background was as a fundraiser in nonprofits; her husband, attorney Al Donohue; and Seth Howard, who owns The Collins Pub and the Last Drop Bottle Shop in Seattle.

Gonyer remembers going to the pub to work on her dissertation as an English grad student. She and Donohue were regulars when they dated, and after their son was born in 1996, would go there on date nights when they had a babysitter.

OK; let’s do it, they concluded.

Says Gonyer, “We never dreamed of owning a bar. But the pub and the memories were special to us. We also did it because, as local kids, we were tired of and distraught by the sheer number of lost touchstones. We couldn’t even show our kid the church we were married in because it was sold and redeveloped. We thought we could at least try to save ONE business for history.”

They spent 10 months working to get the pub ready. “Cleaning everything, painting everything. The walls were orange from tobacco stains.”

By the time the costs were added up for everything from updating electrical and plumbing fixtures to purchasing new kitchen equipment, it was a big chunk of money.


Sixteen months after it had closed, the College Inn Pub reopened on July 15, 2021. It is Gonyer who is there day-to-day, coming in the mornings, sometimes staying until 3 the next morning.

She is proud that the place has been in the black since October 2021, except for January 2022, when the Omicron variant shut down the UW campus.

The first two weeks after the pub reopened, “It was the nostalgia crowd,” says Gonyer. Now, it’s about the current crop of students and keeping them coming back.

That means open mic nights, a pool tournament, book readings, sponsoring a soccer team of chemistry grad students and an LGBTQ+ softball team, and a trivia night that has been a big hit.

“The old ‘If you build it, they will come’ philosophy isn’t good enough when running a historic business. Nostalgia only gets you so far,” says Gonyer.

These days, if you’re one of those who posted about the good old days, stop by the College Inn Pub.

Those faces you’ll see, they were you, 30 years ago.