by Mark Van Streefkerk
The Georgetown Liquor Company (GLC) is one of a few long-standing pillars of Seattle’s meat-free eateries, so when the GLC announced its closing in September, the city’s plant-based community collectively lamented another loss — but not for long. Alan Threewit, co-owner of Capitol Hill’s vegan metal bar Highline, took over. He renovated the interior and debuted an all-vegan menu and selection of craft cocktails, officially relaunched on December 4 for takeout only.
While keeping the name, Threewit started with a small menu based on Highline favorites like the French Dip, Pulled Pork, and Reuben sandwiches along with a burger. Their seitan, a protein-packed vegan meat substitute made from wheat, is made in-house. Highline’s punk and metal-inspired craft cocktails have also carried over to the GLC, like the Reign in Blood, a vegan Bloody Mary made with garlic, basil, and peppercorn-infused vodka, and King Crimson, a Manhattan with muddled orange and cherry, cherry- and orange-infused bourbon, and Luxardo liqueur. Right now the GLC is open everyday from noon to 8 p.m. All food and cocktail items can be ordered for pickup here.
Sandwiched between the train tracks and Airport Way on the corner of South Lucile Street, the GLC is a welcoming beacon at the north end of Georgetown, a cozy spot for local punks, blue-collar workers, and Seattle’s plant-based community. The GLC was originally founded in 2007, featuring a full bar and vegetarian menu with plenty of vegan options. Funky art decorated the exposed brick walls, and retro video games made up a home-spun arcade. The menu featured sci-fi-themed dishes like the “Obi-Won-Ton Plate” and sandwiches like the “Picard” and “Darth Reuben.” While he worked at the Highline for nine years, the GLC was Threewit’s own neighborhood hangout for over a decade. “I’ve been coming here for 12 years since I’ve been in Georgetown. I’ve always felt at home in this bar,” he said. “It’s in my skin.”
When a friend sent him a snapshot of GLC’s “For Rent” sign at the beginning of September, Threewit immediately reached out to former owner Leslee Mesloh, who put him in touch with building owner John Bennett. When Threewit shared his vision of preserving the GLC, with a renewed vibe and menu, Bennett was instantly on board. “It just snowballed. It went really fast,” Threewit said, describing the process. “It just kinda happened. We did a lot of work inside here — a pretty good facelift on the place. It’s not the busiest right now, but you know it is December and opening during COVID — there’s nothing easy about this, but there’s been a really big, positive response.”
The timing couldn’t have been better. Highline quietly celebrated its 10-year anniversary this year under COVID-19 restrictions. Known for its vegan bar food like the popular deep-fried Seitan Fingers, the Highline was primarily a venue for punk and metal shows. With COVID-19 shutting down live music venues, Highline transitioned to offer takeout food and drink only. That didn’t exactly cut it for a location with such a high overhead. “We couldn’t do shows there. That kind of killed everything for us,” Threewit said. “We were in the most expensive area of Capitol Hill. What are you going to do? Rent is insanely expensive. Without doing shows, we’re not making anything.”
Threewit and co-owner Dylan Desmond put Highline on a month-long hiatus in the summer as a mental health break, especially since most of the staff were attending protests at that time. There was talk of taking another hiatus in the fall when Threewit learned the GLC space was for rent. Reflecting on Highline’s struggles, he understood why Mesloh made the difficult decision to close. “I think COVID hit her hard. When I heard that she had closed it I was like, I get it. I totally understand. It was abrupt. I get that too. This is hard.”
COVID-19 has meant hardships for every restaurant, including Seattle’s popular plant-based restaurants, some of which have shuttered their doors for good. Silence-Heart-Nest, which opened in the University District in 1986 before moving to their Fremont location in 2005, closed permanently this year, as did Bamboo Garden, a kosher Chinese restaurant that was a favorite in the vegan community for over 20 years. Chaco Canyon, with locations in Greenwood, West Seattle, and Queen Anne, also closed.
Perhaps not wanting to see another plant-based eatery forced to shutter, members of the vegan community started a GoFundMe to help support kitchen staff who followed Threewit from Highline to GLC. The funds raised supplemented their pay as they worked to revamp the GLC. The new look boasts a charcoal interior and a Black Lives Matter flag proudly displayed above the bar where a TV screen once hung. GLC’s kitchen only has a convection oven — no flat top, deep fryer, or exhaust hood (meaning no more Seitan Fingers, unfortunately). Though starting with a small menu, Threewit plans to add more items soon and has modified Highline’s recipes to accommodate these changes. “To be honest,” he says. “I think they’re better now than they ever were.”
Mark Van Streefkerk is a South Seattle-based journalist living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.
Featured image by Alex Garland