'Last call' at Seattle's Cafe Racer as business prepares to close for good this week
SEATTLE - Café Racer, the site of a mass shooting in 2012, is closing early Thursday morning.
Staff at the bright green café on the northern edge of the University District spent Tuesday afternoon setting up for their final “Taco Tuesday” service and getting ready for their happy hour customers.
“It’s been tearing me up. This has been a place that I’ve loved to come and everything for a long time,” said Royce Aydel, kitchen manager at the café.
Aydel said that Café Racer owner Kurt Geissel notified him last weekend that the business would close. Café Racer has been for sale for more than a year, but, Aydel said, there haven’t been any takers.
Geissel, who has managed a café on the property for nearly 15 years, said on Facebook that he can “no longer support” the business.
“Lord knows the café has had its ups and downs but it has been 14 years of art and music and community. No one can take that away from us,” Geissel wrote.
Aydel blamed the closure on a changing neighborhood, full of students who rarely go out to eat instead of the families who used to come in. It’s unclear what will happen to the property.
In May 2012, a mentally ill gunman opened fire inside the café.
Ian Stawicki was apparently upset at a barista when he killed four people and wounded the chef at the café. He then drove toward downtown, where he killed a woman and stole her car.
When Seattle police closed in on Stawicki he took his own life.
“That really changed the dynamic of a lot of things,” said Aydel. “People were afraid to come back they were afraid, all this happened here. It really shocked a lot of people.”
Aydel, on Tuesday, spent the afternoon making sandwiches for employees at the music shop next door because he said they’ve been longtime supporters. He also said they had a lot of food to use up before the doors were locked for good.
Marshall Wada, of North Bend, was the first customer in the door Tuesday. He quickly scanned the eclectic art lining the walls and stopped when he found a painting of two clowns. He said the painting belonged to his late mother-in-law and they had loaned it to Café Racer.
“Everyone has heard what’s gone on here and everything so it was kind of neat to drop something here that would be appreciated,” Wada said.
Wada said he wanted to grab the painting before it ended up in someone else’s collection.
“It’s really sad to see places like this close down,” he said.
As Howrey chatted with customers at the bar Tuesday she said that Café Racer has been a home for her, a place she has spent more time at than her own apartment.
“It’s a little dive bar, but you come in for a sense of family,” Howrey said.