This week, Tallulah’s — a laid-back Capitol Hill cafe that focuses on Pacific Northwest fare — closed suddenly after six years in business over apparent money issues. And now the woman it’s named after could potentially step in.
According to one employee (who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation), owner Brad Haggen told the staff two weeks ago that the restaurant has been in financial straits and requested that employees wait five days after payday to deposit their checks. This same employee claims that paychecks from the restaurant had been bouncing for the past six months, and that Haggen could owe staff thousands of dollars. Defections began last week, as employees began to quit, according to the source — then the restaurant ended service, and has not re-opened since.
Capitol Hill Seattle (which first reported the problems) says that Haggen blamed the unexpected closing on losing “key staff.” The employee counters to Eater, “What he omits is that staff stuck around through all this financial mess, through six months of checks bouncing, and towards the end, still showed up to work even with drained bank accounts while we waited to deposit our checks.” Eater Seattle made multiple calls and sent emails to Haggen and his Bellingham, WA-based restaurant company for comment on the situation, but he has yet to return them.
Meanwhile, there could still be a Hallmark Channel-like holiday miracle in the works. Tallulah Anderson — the daughter of original owner Linda Derschang and the restaurant’s namesake — says she would like to help in any way she can, possibly by buying the place outright. “If it’s for sale, I’d find investors on my own,” she tells Eater Seattle. “My goal would be to make the business feel like a safe space, where employees are treated fairly and guests feel welcome.”
Tallulah’s opened six years ago as Derschang expanded her bar-restaurant empire on Capitol Hill. It was originally conceived as a more vegetarian-focused spot, but evolved over time to include a broader mix of dishes, before Derschang’s restaurant group sold it to Haggen in 2018. At the beginning, Anderson worked for her mom’s company as a public relations representative and consultant. She says she “put her heart into” Tallulah’s, but left after a business-related rift. “I haven’t spoken to Linda in years,” she says.
Now, she hopes to bring things full circle. “I always planned to follow Linda’s path in the restaurant industry, but it didn’t work out,” says Anderson, who currently does various catering, cooking, and bartending gigs. If she did get to purchase the restaurant, she says she may make some design tweaks based on her original vision for the place, and include more vegan options, while doubling down a commitment to source locally.
But that’s all still speculation at this point, as the future of Tallulah’s is still very much up in the air — and the bad blood between employees and ownership continues to boil. “Every single person that quit before the close waited until they absolutely could no longer carry that burden of financial insecurity,” says the employee source. “None of us wanted to see this happen.”
There’s recently been a Go Fund Me created to help raise funds for displaced staff. In the meantime, Anderson offers her services for anybody who needs to find work and wants to reach out: “I still know a lot of people in the industry, so maybe I can help people get jobs.”