'Total memory thief' cashes in on Comet Tavern's money ceiling

SEATTLE -- A thief has ruined a long-standing ritual at a bar on Capitol Hill. Someone stripped away all the dollar bills that people have been tacking up on the ceiling of the Comet Tavern for years.

"From owner to owner to owner, there's always been those dollar bills up there," said Jason Lajeunesse, who recently purchased the club.

Work crews came in Wednesday morning and noticed a beer can on the ground that had been tacked overhead.

"Right away he was like, 'Oh that's weird, must have fell,' and as he looked up he realized that all the money was gone," Lajeunesse said.

The Comet is temporarily closed while the new owners complete restoration work. They believe this theft was deliberate because thousands of dollars in equipment sat untouched.

"They left all the tools," Lajeunesse said.

The heist unravels a signature event at the club, where people would stick a tack through a dollar bill, then wad it around a quarter to add weight.

"And you throw it up, and the quarter falls out and falls back down, and the dollar and the tack stay in there," explained Richard Clark, a former bartender at Comet Tavern.

It's not clear how much money was stuck to the ceiling, but regulars say it was a piece of history they all got to share. Many people wrote messages on the money before impaling them into the ceiling for all to see.

Lajeunesse thinks the crook brought his own ladder because none of the ones inside are tall enough to reach the ceiling, which is about 20 feet overhead.

A few mementos remain, including a section of tile from the old Kingdome, and a ticket to the band The Melvins. Still, the owner says one tradition that made the Comet unique just got short-changed.

"I was thinking this guy's a total memory thief," Lajeunesse said. "These are people's memories. it's not about the money."