Tully’s Coffee has closed three stores in recent days, was evicted from its Western Avenue office and faces lawsuits that could lead to eviction at two other locations in Seattle and Bellevue.
The long-struggling local brand, now owned by a company called Global Baristas, shuttered three Seattle locations this month: 19th Avenue East and East Aloha Street on Capitol Hill, 2003 Western Ave. near Pike Place Market, and Two Union Square in the central business district.
The first two were the subjects of eviction suits, as was the separate company office in the building on Western Avenue, according to King County Superior Court records.
Tully’s also faces potential eviction from its Eastgate location in Bellevue and its Exchange Building cafe in downtown Seattle under separate lawsuits filed in mid-November.
Employees who were removing equipment Tuesday from the Capitol Hill location referred questions to company officials. The Capitol Hill Seattle blog first reported that location’s closure.
Asked about the lawsuits, Tully’s spokeswoman Suzy Quinn said in an emailed statement that “every store closure and decision to terminate various leases has been a purposeful decision by the company. Any suggestion otherwise is ridiculous.”
She added that “the company has enjoyed and continues to enjoy tremendous financial success and expects to do so in the future.”
The closings come a couple months after the company parted ways with Boeing on less-than-friendly terms, ending an 11-year relationship in which it ran 12 coffee shops at the plane maker’s plants around the Puget Sound area.
A map on the company’s website shows some 20 locations around Puget Sound, including those recently shuttered.
The state Department of Revenue has filed a bevy of tax warrants against the company in the past year. It’s not clear how much is currently owed on those.
Malcolm Witter, a longtime customer at the Two Union Square location, said the abrupt closure right before Thanksgiving leaves him nowhere nearby to use the $105 in stored value on his Tully’s loyalty card.
A sign posted on the cafe door at the Two Union tower indicated Tully’s had chosen to leave because of planned renovations in the building, and directed customers to try two other Tully’s — the now-closed store on Western and the Exchange Building cafe.
“Why not let people know, ‘You might want to get your balances down,’ especially if they are closing other stores in the area,” said Witter, a senior director for USI Kibble &Prentice.
Global Baristas owed more than $38,000 in rent for its office space on Western, and another $21,000 for the cafe below, according to court documents. Attorney Matthew Green, who represented the building’s owner, said the coffee company was evicted from both spaces.
At the Exchange Building location, where Tully’s has operated for 17 years, Global Baristas on Nov. 6 was served a three-day notice to pay overdue rent or leave.
Green, the attorney in that case as well, said that after a hearing Wednesday in which Global Baristas offered no response to the lawsuit, a judgment of more than $40,000 was entered in the landlord’s favor and the Exchange Building lease was terminated. Whether eviction papers will be served remains to be determined, he said.
Tully’s was founded in 1992. For years, under the leadership of real-estate broker Tom O’Keefe, it followed a strategy of locating close to its larger and more successful rival, Starbucks. But over many years it only turned a fleeting profit by selling off parts of the company, such as its grocery-store coffee business.
In 2012 the original Tully’s Coffee filed for bankruptcy, and eventually the business was acquired out of Chapter 11 by the investors who formed Global Baristas, led by Los Angeles attorney Michael Avenatti.
The shrinking number of Tully’s locations runs against the trend of specialty coffee shops regionally. Chain coffee shops in the Greater Seattle area outnumbered independents for the first time last spring, according to NPD Group’s restaurant census.
Chains grew 9 percent between 2013 and 2017, to 910 locations, while independents fell 12 percent to 852 locations.
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