As he prepares to open his new Hilltop cocktail lounge, Hilltop Kitchen, Chris Keil’s tenure at 1022 South is behind him. Keil said in a public statement that his business relationship with 1022 South has been dissolved (read his full statement sent via email below).
Richard Stubbs, an owner of 1022 South, said by phone that he was reluctant to discuss what happened. “I don’t want to say anything negative at all,” he said. He added that he didn’t want to comment on personnel matters, but assured fans of 1022 South that he wasn’t planning any changes and he’s looking for a manager to run the bar. “We’re in transition and we have no plans at this time to change anything about 1022 South,” he said.
Keil’s opinion differed on what’s next for 1022 South. Wrote Keil, “I don't know what is going to happen to the bar, but it can't and won't be the same because the owners don't share my values.”
The tiny cocktail lounge opened in 2009. The lounge has been praised by cocktail enthusiasts and received national media attention because of its unorthodox approach to cocktailing through apothecary. Cocktails at 1022 South are made with botanical infusions and house-made tinctures.
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Keil said he intends to continue an apothecary style of cocktailing at his next venture, currently in the works. He plans an opening by June 1 of Hilltop Kitchen, which will be a 49-seat lounge opening where Tempest Lounge operated from 2005 until it closed in September 2012. Keil's business partner in Hilltop Kitchen is Matt Schweitzer, a managing partner at Cal's Classic American. (Here's an interesting Tacoma connection: Schweitzer's business partner at Cal's is someone familiar to Tacomans - Jeff Chandler, the son of Cal Chandler, the founder of The Ram restaurant chain.)
Hilltop Kitchen's opening will add to a nightlife renaissance underway in the neighborhood immediately surrounding 1022 South. Since last summer, neighborhood bars Peterson Brothers 1111 and Broken Spoke have opened nearby. The neighborhood also houses an eclectic list of eateries, including the Vietnamese restaurant LeLe and Bob’s Bar-B-Q Pit.
Here’s the full text of Keil’s statement::
“ I don't really know where to start. I guess the best place is to convey my deep sense of gratitude to my friends and family. I really appreciate all of your support through the lean first couple years and the busy last couple. I wouldn't have been able to be creative and do something that I truly love without all of your support through kind words, patience, and frankly, patronage.
I know that a lot of people think that the bar is stuffy, pretentious, or the spearhead of gentrification in a neighborhood that I love, but for me it was at its heart just a neighborhood bar. I tried (with varying degrees of success) to create a place that I would feel comfortable coming into after a day working in the yard or taking a date out on a Friday night. It has been a privilege to build something and share it with all of you. I can't express how much it has meant to me that so many people have shared so much of their lives with us – from the parents who had a sitter and grabbed a quick snack and a cocktail to the young man who proposed to his girlfriend out front. It has been fantastic that the bar was the local spot for everyone from the barbers next door to professors at UWT and Puget Sound.
I'm not going to get into details about what happened Monday morning other than to say that they terminated my position, after which I told them that it would be a good idea to dissolve our business relationship. The majority of my equity in the bar was in a handshake agreement which they told me they had no intention of honoring. When I asked them to buy out the equity that is in writing, they offered a small amount in return for me signing a non-disclosure agreement. I declined the offer, they threatened with having my reputation in the community destroyed, and at that point I promptly left.
I don't know what is going to happen to the bar, but it can't and won't be the same because the owners don't share my values. I would be shocked if they continued to work with local farmers and vendors or if they sourced ingredients based on quality and not profit margin. Who knows, maybe it will end up fantastic, but it definitely won't be the same.
My new project Hilltop Kitchen is still in the works with a friend and different business partner. It should be open in about a month or so. We are very excited to see all of you and to get the chance to serve you food and drinks again. You can follow our progress or get in touch through all of the usual social media.
Thank you so much to Katy for being awesome. Thank you so much to Corey, Cynthia, Jena, and everyone else who works or has worked at the bar. It has truly been an honor to work with all of you. You are my surrogate family and are the kindest, funniest, most generous and creative group of people I could have ever asked for. Thank you.” READ MORE: This has been a month filled with personnel shifts around town. In case you missed my story a few days ago, read about chefs on the move at Green.House, Dirty Oscar's Annex and Chambers Bay Grill.
CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect that Jeff Chandler is the son of Cal Chandler, who was the founder of The Ram restaurant chain.