RACHEL BELLE

Beloved Yonder Cider shutting down after one Seattle neighbor complains

Feb 11, 2021, 6:02 PM | Updated: Feb 19, 2021, 10:50 am
Yonder Cider, land use rules...
Yonder Cider's Founder & President in front of her detached garage/cider shop. (Photo courtesy of Yonder Cider)
(Photo courtesy of Yonder Cider)

After working in the hard cider industry for many years, Yonder Cider’s founder Caitlin Braam was getting ready to open a tasting room of her very own. But then, the pandemic hit. Braam lives on a Stay Healthy Street in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, a residential street the city shut down to cars and mandated as pedestrian-only.

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“My father-in-law was like, ‘Why don’t you just sell it out of your garage?’ So what we have here is a garage that’s detached from our house,” said Braam, giving me a tour. “When you open the door, you see a lovely counter, and a cooler, and some taps. What we’ve done is create a little pop-up here for Yonder Cider.”

For the past seven months, Yonder has sold cans and growlers to-go. There is no drinking on the premises or the street.

“We have our Liquor Control license, we also have a city business license,” Braam said. “When we started looking into this, we did call the city to ask if this was possible because we knew we were in a single family zoned area, but we knew the nature of our street was changing because it was a Stay Healthy Street. So it was a bit of a gray area. They were like, ‘OK, go ahead. The way something will happen is if a lot of people complain.'”

“Well, one person decided they didn’t like Yonder Bar and complained a lot to the city, the Liquor Control Board, the health department,” she said. “It’s made our lives difficult and it’s why we’re shutting down.”

The last day Yonder Bar is allowed to operate is Monday, Feb. 15.

“It’s great to have you, we love you here,” said Kim Kotovic, a neighbor who stopped to talk to Braam while walking by with her family.

In the short amount of time I spent with Braam in front of her garage, countless parents, with their children in tow, stopped to share their support and to air their grievances about how one mystery man is ruining the fun for everyone.

“This makes our community better,” Ben Kotovic said. “It’s a place for us to greet and have a chance to meet our community. The idea of shutting it down doesn’t make any sense. We’re in COVID time, we should leave it open. If someone thinks it’s a chance to close it, they don’t care about the community, they only care about themselves.”

Yonder is only a couple blocks away from St. John Catholic School, but the principal and vice principal reached out to Braam to express their support for Yonder Bar. Braam says she purposefully doesn’t open until the after school foot traffic subsides. But the man who complained did so on behalf of St. John’s.

“It is not a St. John-led initiative,” said Melissa Herron, a parent of two at St. John’s. “If they personally have their own issue, great, that’s totally fine. They can take up their own issue. But to make it seem positioned as a school initiative is just wrong because for those of us who purposefully put their children in a school like this to teach them to love thy neighbor, it’s very hypocritical. Especially when we have other establishments that are just as close. We fully support you.”

Braam says they’ve never had an issue with open containers, litter, or noise, and the neighbors chatting with her on the street agree.

“I have never seen that happen,” Kim Kotovic said. “I see families walking around with glasses of wine!”

At this point, Braam says she’s being shut down for zoning issues. She’s working with the city in hopes of making some policy changes, but that could take months.

“What we’re asking is, during the time of COVID, when businesses are just trying to survive, allowing us a little bit of leniency to have a place where we can sell some product and have a revenue stream that is really important to us,” Braam said. “We have plans for a larger tasting room this summer, but that’s six months away. The revenue from this little spot was a big part of making that happen.”

Over the past week, Yonder has gathered more than 2,700 signatures on the Letter of Support they plan to present to the city. Click here to add your signature. Yonder Bar’s last day is on Monday, click here to find their location.

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, “Your Last Meal,” featuring celebrities like Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Rainn Wilson, and Greta Gerwig. Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram!

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Beloved Yonder Cider shutting down after one Seattle neighbor complains