After 11 allegations of sexual misconduct — and 11 low-profile months since the allegations became public — it looks like Seattle entrepreneur Dave Meinert is getting back into business.
The nightlife entrepreneur and former Seattle power broker is poised to take over the nearly 90-year-old Mecca Cafe. Last week, he registered the cafe, with its current address in Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood, as a trade name with the state and on Monday applied for a new liquor license under the Mecca Cafe’s name, according to the state Liquor and Cannabis Board.
Meinert’s re-emergence presents a local test of the #MeToo movement. Once a businessman with close ties to Seattle politics and politicians, he was shunned by friends and businesses after the exposure of allegations of sexual misconduct, including rape, over two decades.
Meinert denied specific accusations of rape and sexual assault, as first reported in July by KUOW, though he acknowledged being “handsy” in the past. He did not respond to six more allegations of sexual misconduct made public a month later, and did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
He has never been charged in connection with these allegations: Just two of the accusers reported their allegations to police, one of which a King County prosecutor declined to pursue. The other allegation was reported to police after the statute of limitations on it had expired.
Nearly a year later, some see Meinert’s Mecca takeover as an example of another common #MeToo story: the casual return to public life after condemnation and a self-determined probation. Meinert has owned the 5 Point Café in Belltown since 2009.
It’s still unclear, however, whether Meinert will seek a similar return to the political world, where he’s contributed more than $37,000 to political campaigns since 2007, according to public disclosure filings, and has helped raise money for King County Executive Dow Constantine and others. Or, if he tries to return, whether he’ll be welcome.
“I believe his future in doing anything politically out here is done,” said political consultant Michael Charles, a former member of Constantine’s office. “I don’t foresee him doing more than owning this now and keeping the bankroll coming in.”
Political consultant Heather Weiner said she saw Meinert’s Mecca move as a “test balloon” to see whether he would be accepted back into public life. Public disclosure filings show that Meinert hasn’t donated to a political campaign since the allegations broke.
“I think some political folks will still take his money,” Weiner said. “But I don’t see him being invited to task forces or working groups or to be the primary host of a fundraiser. No one’s going to be doing that any time soon.”
Meinert appears to have formally launched his comeback in March, less than eight months after the allegations became public, when he filed a new limited liability corporation called Queen Anne Diner LLC.
Reinventing himself as the Mecca’s new owner holds particular significance for his accusers. Two of Meinert’s 11 accusers said that they had met with Meinert at the Mecca before he sexually assaulted, or attempted to sexually assault, them.
Rebecca Jacobs said she was supposed to meet with Meinert and a friend at the Mecca when the friend didn’t show. After she accepted Meinert’s offer of a ride home, Jacobs said Meinert drove her into his own garage, closed the door, exposed himself and attempted to push her head onto his lap.
Jacobs, who described the Mecca as Meinert’s “hunting ground,” said the move showed that “people either have short memories or don’t care.”
“I think his success in business in Seattle is a slap in the face to the people who came forward with credible accusations against him,” Jacobs said.
Within days of the initial allegations last July, Meinert’s business interests began to split. His former business partners, Joey Burgess and Jason Lajeunesse, announced that they would be buying Meinert out from the bars and restaurants they co-owned, including the Comet, Lost Lake and Grim’s. Spoken-word poet Andrea Gibson as well as Hey Marseilles and The Lumineers, two bands managed by Meinert’s entertainment company, said they were no longer working with him.
Marcus Charles of Seattle Event Solutions, a company Meinert co-owned, told The Stranger his company had parted ways with him, too. And while Meinert had described big plans for the ground-floor retail space of the Gridiron condo building in Pioneer Square back in 2016, the sales contract expired in 2019.
At one time, Meinert enjoyed close relationships with some politicians and political insiders. One of the incidents allegedly occurred during an election-night outing in an SUV with local politicians, including then-state Sen. Cyrus Habib. (Accuser Maria Leininger said Habib, who is blind, texted her from the front to see if she was OK, which she said stopped Meinert from harassing her and, at one point, attempting to push her head into his lap in the backseat.)
In the aftermath of the accusations, politicians including Constantine and Gov. Jay Inslee returned or donated Meinert’s contributions.
The Mecca has a colorful cultural history. The cafe and bar, whose slogan is “alcoholics serving alcoholics since 1929,” is a Seattle institution, created alongside a sister establishment, The 5 Point Café, nearly 90 years ago.
It remains to be seen how Mecca employees will react to the change in ownership. After the allegations against Meinert became public, several employees of the 5 Point Café signed a letter urging Meinert to sell. When he didn’t, at least two employees quit.
“Your choice to stay on as owner has turned us into moral and emotional hostages, and is fracturing our family and our community,” the letter read. “This is no way to treat people you claim to care about.”
Karon Hanke, the most recent owner of the Mecca, declined to comment for this story.