Red Robin to Close Original Restaurant

HP preserves the garage where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started their company. Google bought the garage Larry Page and Sergey Brin rented to start theirs. But Red Robin has decided to let go their original Seattle location because it is too expensive to maintain.

Nancy Leson of The Seattle Times' All You Can Eat Blog has a brief history of the US burger chain:

It was 1969 when Gerry Kingen -- now owner of Salty's restaurants -- bought the Red Robin tavern. "I ran it as a tavern for a couple-three years," recalls Kingen, whose clientele included the university crowd and local houseboat habitues. "Before we put in food, we were serving burnt popcorn and plastic-wrapped sandwiches prepared in an infrared oven, doing about 12 grand a month -- which was big money back then."

In 1973, Kingen did a thorough remodel of the hillside joint, built in 1916, and upgraded its menu. "We put a deck in the back, added two burgers, fish and chips and a strip steak out of Andy's Diner. It wasn't exactly Andy's recipe, but the concept was the same."

More than a few of my boomer-buddies remember the first Red Robin as the place where they could flash their fake IDs before sitting in front of a fabulously sloppy burger washed down with a beer -- or three. Seattle historian Paul Dorpat remembers its storied jukebox: "Muddy Waters, psychedelic, none of that teen-y pop." And he recalls the night Kingen closed the tavern in preparation for the makeover. "When you know a place is going to be destroyed, you `help' it along the way," he says of the "spirited community" some 200-strong, who enthusiastically brought down the house that night. "By 2 a.m., it wasn't the same place that we showed up at earlier in the evening."

In the wake of his splashy redo, business tripled, says Kingen. Red Robin eventually expanded to Northgate and elsewhere, and later franchised. "I basically created a grownup's McDonald's," he says.

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