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Originally published September 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 5, 2008 at 9:27 AM

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Hard Rock Café to open in Seattle

Hard Rock Café will open a Seattle restaurant next fall a half-block from the Pike Place Market.

Seattle Times business reporter

Hard Rock Café

Coming to Seattle in 2009

Founded: 1971

Headquarters: Orlando, Fla.

First restaurant: London

Properties: About 140 on six continents, including cafes, hotels, casinos, concert venues and a rock 'n' roll -theme park that opened in May in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Newest restaurants (opened in 2008): Beijing; Seoul; Hyderabad, India; Bucharest, Romania; Singapore.

Rock memorabilia collection: More than 70,000 items including John Lennon's handwritten lyrics to the Beatles' "Help," a Madonna bustier, and guitars played by Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

Ownership: Purchased by the Seminole Tribe of Florida in March 2007 from Rank Group for $965 million.

Source: hardrock.com

Hard Rock Café plans to open its first Northwest restaurant next year a half-block from Pike Place Market.

The global chain, whose T-shirts and collection of rock 'n' roll memorabilia may be better-known than its food, has leased the vacant, two-story Liberty Building on Pike Street between First and Second avenues, said Jeff Schoenfeld, a principal with Urban Visions, the building owner.

Renovation of the 84-year-old terra-cotta-clad building should begin within 30 days, he said, and the rock-themed cafe should open by next fall.

The remodeled building will have a 450-seat restaurant, live-music space, a rooftop deck and a "Rock Shop" selling Hard Rock-logo clothing, pins and other items.

"When we bought this property two years ago, part of our goal was to have a positive impact on our neighborhood," Schoenfeld said. "This should bring some energy and vitality to that corridor."

Hard Rock International representatives confirmed the company's plans for Seattle. The chain is advertising online for a general manager for the restaurant. It has been looking for a site in Seattle for some time, Schoenfeld said. The closest Hard Rock Cafes are in San Francisco, Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

Kate Joncas, president of the Downtown Seattle Association, said the restaurant's presence will help transform a stretch of Pike Street between the Market and the downtown retail core that still is seedy in places.

"Pike Street should be our best corridor, and for a lot of reasons, it's not," Joncas said. "Urban Visions is bringing in a national tenant with a national brand, which is probably what it's going to take to make it in that area right now."

The first Hard Rock Café, featuring "classic American" food, opened in 1971 in London. Since then, the chain has expanded to 48 countries. In addition to 125 restaurants, it runs five hotels, four hotel-casinos, four concert halls and a theme park, the corporate Web site.

The company has collected more than 70,000 pieces of rock 'n' roll memorabilia — guitars, posters, costumes, sheet music, photos — that it displays at its restaurants on a rotating basis.

Schoenfeld said the Seattle cafe would put special emphasis on the city's rock legacy.

"There's a great music story to be told here," he said.

For 40 years the 14,000-square-foot Liberty Building was home to Liberty Jewelry & Loan, a pawnshop. It closed in 2006 after the owner, his daughter and her husband were charged with buying and selling stolen property. All three have been sentenced.

Urban Visions, which has developed several projects downtown, bought the Liberty Building for $3.33 million in September 2006. Last year it submitted preliminary paperwork to demolish the building and build a 15-story office and condo tower on the site, but didn't follow up.

Schoenfeld said the building was in bad shape, but Urban Visions ultimately concluded that, if it were renovated, it would offer an opportunity to do something unique.

While the Liberty Building is old, it isn't an official historic landmark. Sarah Sodt, the city's Downtown Landmarks Board coordinator, said it was nominated two years ago, but the board concluded it had been altered too much over the years to qualify.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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