Seward Cafe to add evening hours, live music, wine and beer
Soon, Seward Cafe will be open for dinner.
RumAli via Flickr Creative Commons
First the Birchwood announced an addition. Now Seward Cafe, another neighborhood institution, is pursuing its own expansion plans.
The 38-year-old cafe isn't looking to add onto its spacious corner lot, but instead to revamp the menu, extend its current breakfast and lunch business into dinner, start serving beer and wine, and host performances. New hours will be fluid and are still getting worked out, but Seward Cafe's next incarnation could be open as late as 1 a.m. for events.
"We have this pretty nice building and property, but we're only open until 3 or 4 p.m.," says Nils Collins, a member of the 13-personworker co-op that runs the cafe, and the one who's spearheading the new changes. "We might as well utilize that. There's also been a vacuum since the Bedlam left its West Bank location, and we have a nice space for having shows, and for getting that community feeling back in the evenings."
Right now, the co-op is hoping to have the cafe open for dinner by mid-January and is working through the city bureaucracy necessary for a liquor license and events. "If we're going to have shows, which we are," Collins says, "we might as well make it so that the city can't fine us for them."
Last night, the cafe cleared the first hurdle in that process, when the City Planning Commission approved a parking variance and a rezoning that will allow it to host medium-sized bands.
So far, the city side of things is progressing as smoothly as that approval would suggest. More important, the neighborhood is supportive, according to Collins, who says the cafe has only gotten a "tiny bit" of pushback over the plans.
The most complicated piece of the process has actually been getting all the co-op members on board. Since Seward Cafe is collectively run (the oldest restaurant of its kind in the country), the behind-the-scenes decision-making leading up to the current plans has been in motion for about a year-and-a-half already, according to Collins.
"Anything in a cooperative takes a lot longer than in a hierarchical structure," Collins says. "There were a lot of small conversations and committee meetings."
For the most part, though, the co-op members have been enthusiastic. "People were more excited than I though they were going to be," says Collins. "The mornings can drag for people who live a rock-and-roll lifestyle, where it's hard to be at the cafe at 6 in the morning every morning."
Adding evening hours will give members more schedule flexibility, and according to Collins, "people are generally excited about change."
Dinner service, and even a liquor license, won't be entirely new to the cafe, which opened its doors in 1974. It served wine and beer until the mid-'80s and dinner until the mid-'90s, according to Collins, who says he can talk about the cafe's history "for hours."
"The place was being run fairly inefficiently, was losing money, and was mostly a social experiment," he says. "Now, though, we have a much firmer grasp of what we need to do to be a business."
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