In Queen Anne’s Uptown neighborhood, Key Arena was once a popular facility for people to attend Seattle Supersonics basketball games and their favorite concerts.
With the departure of the Sonics on July 2, 2008, and musicians seeking venues elsewhere, the arena and the neighborhood was never the same. Local businesses that relied on those games and concerts to bring in a regular flow started to suffer because the high rent payments and little attraction to the neighborhood.
“The Seattle Sonics were the hottest ticket in town during their run towards a championship in the mid-’90s,” said Stacy Knox, a resident of Uptown since 1986. “Places such as the Streamline Tavern would have to shoo people away because they were too full.”
With the new Climate Pledge Arena set to open this year, merchants and residents are very excited for what is to come.
Along with the new building is a brand-new NHL franchise: the Seattle Kraken, which will christen the new arena during the 2021-22 NHL season.
In addition to serving the Kraken, the 800,000-square-foot arena will become the home for the WNBA Seattle Storm and serve as a music and entertainment venue for a number of concerts. Overall, merchants and residents could expect up to 200 days of events in the neighborhood again.
Kirbie Predmore, the owner of the new Uptown HopHouse brewery right across the street from the Climate Pledge Arena, had no previous connection with the neighborhood but sold his business in Lake City and bought the small retail space in a building that his friend owns at 219 First Ave. N. #101.
With the construction of the new arena and the pandemic, trying to stay open has been a real problem, however.
“[It’s been] Brutal,” Predmore said. “We are the only sports pub in the area, so social gatherings to watch games is the heart of our business. Seahawks games and trivia nights just aren’t the same.”
Other businesses that have been in the area for years have had their share of struggles in the years between the old Key Arena going down and the Climate Pledge Arena going up, as well.
One of those businesses is the Streamline Tavern, an Uptown dive bar since the 1950s.
In 2014, the Streamline property on Second and Mercer was purchased by the Korean government, and the bar was forced to move in 2015.
To keep the old-school neighborhood feel from the old bar to its new building, owner Mike Lewis and some friends retrieved the huge horseshoe-style bar from the original property and carried it down Mercer Street to its new location. The Streamline was whole again with its old bar and fixtures at its new building on Roy Street in Uptown.
The Streamline was doing well, even with the loss of the Sonics and concerts. There were still events in the nearby Seattle Center and local patrons frequenting the bar kept everybody happy.
Then COVID-19 hit.
Lewis, along with other businesses owners, are now weathering a storm that has taken its toll over the last six months.
Revenue has dropped 70 percent, and many employees are out of work. While grocery stores flourished and take-out restaurants have managed to stay afloat, taverns and bars have floundered.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a tornado,” Lewis said. “It has destroyed one location while leaving others in perfect condition.”
While the pandemic continues to take its toll on everyone, Climate Pledge Arena construction continues, with the NHL Seattle Kraken franchise coming soon to Uptown.
“Bring em on,” Lewis said. “Hockey fans are going to be great.”
Lewis said he will be excited to see the waves of fans coming into his bar before and after the games at Climate Pledge Arena.
Further, with the starting of Phase Two in Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 reopening plan, Climate Pledge Arena construction still on schedule and new businesses popping up in the neighborhood, establishments that were once deserted could soon have new faces patronizing them.