One week ago tonight, on an evening just as sunny–even brighter, in fact–than this, I walked through the open door of the Copper Gate shortly after it opened and took a seat at the bar for closing night.
With a menu featuring gravlax, pickled herring, fiskekaker, and pannekaker, along with a number of aquavit selections, the bar in Ballard–a Seattle neighborhood known for its Scandinavian influence–had been a hangout for Scandinavian-Americans and neighborhood locals for years.
A few weeks ago the owners announced that they had sold the Copper Gate and it would be closing on June 30. Originally opening in 1946, the Copper Gate underwent a makeover when the new owners reopened it in 2006. Risqué art and decor hinted at the establishment’s past and accompanied rosemaling touches and a bar taking the shape of a Viking ship.
The evening was just getting going and I had the choice of any number of seats, but already the offerings were limited. They were out of some of the food. The case of aquavit was down to the last few bottles. What was left was left. A call came in from a patron requesting the recipe for the stor agurk cocktail.
Bars and restaurants come and go, but this closure hit pretty deep for a lot of locals and those with a soft spot in their hearts for Scandinavian food. Though the city’s Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish roots run deep, traces of its heritage have been fading in recent years as Scandinavian shops and restaurants have closed. The Copper Gate was one of the last places to get this type of cuisine, and certainly the last of its kind.
At the risk of sounding too sappy, the closure saddened me as the bar held a certain amount of significance to me. It was in one of those green-colored booths where my husband and I took our seats four years ago almost to the day to raise glasses of aquavit in memory of my grandmother Agny, who had passed away just days before.
We’d stop in, wearing a suit and dress, for a drink after attending an opera and always enjoyed perusing the menu that managed to resonate both with its Scandinavian patrons and those entirely unfamiliar with the Norwegian and Swedish cuisine.
I drove by the Copper Day the day after it closed and saw the doors open, workers already disassembling the interior and getting it ready for the new business. No one has said for sure yet what’s replacing it, although there have been rumors of a sports-themed bar. In any case, the Copper Gate as we know it is gone.