By Adam H. Callaghan & Megan Hill
El Diablo Coffee Co., a fixture on Queen Anne Hill for 18 years and one of the few places in Seattle making Cuban espresso with caramelized sugar, has received a Notice to Terminate Tenancy by April 30 from its building’s owner, Erickson Family LLC. El Diablo owner Jill Killen, who also owns Royal Drummer cafe in Ballard and Cloud City Coffee in Maple Leaf, says she is current on her rent, has never missed a payment, and has been trying to engage the building’s owner for months to work out a new long-term lease, but efforts to do so have gone unanswered. Now, she’s now being shown the door.
Queen Anne Book Company, next door to El Diablo, recently renewed its lease with the same building owner for five more years, according to a KIRO 7 report. Co-owner Janis Segress said losing El Diablo would negatively affect her business. Killen says she will hopefully keep El Diablo alive, with the same employees, perhaps even next door at 1825 Queen Anne Ave. N, the spacious former home of Nana’s Family Mexican Kitchen and Cantina. But at this point a lot is undetermined.
On top of everything else, Killen says she’s upset by the way the landlord has handled the whole situation. She says a courier handed the notice to vacate to a barista, who called her in a panic. This was the first she’d heard about any intent from the building’s owner to move on from its agreement with El Diablo. “Not only was it disrespectful, but they didn’t give me the dignity to message my staff about it myself,” Killen says. “I didn’t get the chance to control the message.”
Killen says about a year ago the building’s property manager approached her to discuss a new lease that would involve higher rent, and Killen said she wouldn’t agree to pay more unless the building’s aging electrical and plumbing systems were upgraded. Instead of signing a long-term agreement, she moved to a month-to-month lease and expected further negotiations via the landlord. No such luck.
“The property manager of both businesses said Diablo Coffee Co. should have negotiated when their lease was current. The owner has decided to move in another direction,” KIRO 7 reports.
The El Diablo Facebook page shared an announcement of the news April 3, saying “El Diablo has been a part of the Queen Anne community for over 18 years, and hope we can work with the Erickson Family to seek a solution, together, so we may remain at 1811 Queen Anne Avenue North.”
Killen has also vented her frustrations on her personal Facebook page, posting, “I was under the impression a new lease was forthcoming and never believed this would happen. Lesson learned. In this crazy real estate market do not take anything for granted. I love you Seattle, but at this moment I don’t like you very much. We are looking very seriously at moving next door for El Diablo 2.0. More on that later.”
El Diablo has also created a Gofundme campaign seeking to cover unexpected costs of moving, including providing for employees during the move. In just under 24 hours, the company had raised $6,516 of a $75,000 goal.