Former patrons of Belltown Billiards would probably balk at the sight of dishes like “rack of lamb” and “miso cod” being served at the iconic dive. But the menu was well-suited to the friends and employees of Seattle startup Tune that gathered there Tuesday evening.
The dinner was held to celebrate the opening of the new Tune Kitchen, where Head Chef Susie Walker and her team will prepare breakfast and lunch for about 250 employees daily. The original Tune Kitchen, in the Triangle building on Western, was too small to accommodate the commercial equipment needed to produce meals at that scale. The new Tune Kitchen will also host company town hall meetings, community events, happy hours, product demo days, and other gatherings.
It’s the latest unorthodox move by the marketing technology company, which also operates an eight-bedroom house with free rent for women studying computer science.
“We have a few more secret little projects in store, but we can’t say any more about those just yet,” said Tune CEO Peter Hamilton at the dinner.
Tune, with about 350 employees worldwide, decided to invest in the Belltown Billiards property because of its location and history. The building is directly across the street from Tune’s headquarters and both buildings were once part of a massive livery operation in downtown Seattle.
Tune’s headquarters was a four-story horse stable and the Belltown Billiards building contained a pub and veterinary for the horses.
“So we’re bringing the buildings back together with TUNE, making TUNE HQ’s entire storefront lining one of the oldest (and steepest) sections of road in Seattle’s downtown, Blanchard Avenue between 1st and Western,” said Hamilton in a news release.
Transforming Belltown Billiards into a gourmet kitchen with capacity for 300 people required significant investments from Tune.
The building’s plumbing, electrical systems, heating, venting, and air conditioning all needed to be replaced. Tune also made cosmetic changes to the space, the most striking of which is a mural featuring the original code for Tune’s flagship product, HasOffers.
Twin brothers and co-founders Lucas and Lee Brown developed HasOffers in 2009, after graduating from Babson College. At the Tune Kitchen opening, they explained how they chose Seattle not once, but twice, for the company’s operations.
When the time came to choose a headquarters for the company, Lee and Lucas posted job openings all over the country. Based on the responses they got, Seattle slowly emerged as the clear leader.
This past year, Tune’s leadership team traveled around the U.S. trying to decide where to open its new research and development center.
“We went on this long, weaving journey and every time we came to a new city we were like, ‘This is actually not as good as Seattle,'” Lucas Brown said in a toast Tuesday. “And we kept going to new cities and new cities and we were like, ‘Seattle’s way better.’ And so we decided, ‘We gotta to come back to Seattle and we gotta put the R&D office right across the street.'”
Despite the fanfare of Tune Kitchen’s opening (Hamilton popped the celebratory champagne using a sword), former Belltown Billiards regulars may lament its passing. The bar shuttered its doors abruptly in 2014. Perhaps for posterity, Tune left the bar’s sign intact.
Despite this display of nostalgia, Tune’s team didn’t seem overly concerned about ushering in a new era for the downtown establishment.
“How many of you have been to Belltown Billiards?” Hamilton teased. “A very healthy amount of you. Shame on you.”
See more photos from the new Tune Kitchen’s grand opening below.