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Sky View Observatory

Where you can be the eye in the sky

You may already know some facts about Seattle's Sky View Observatory: it's on the 73rd story of the Columbia Center, 902 feet in the air, with a 360° view. A recent multi-year $25 million improvement created a streamlined guest experience. Part of that experience, and this is what you may not know, includes a full café with food, beer, wine, and spirits.

Even on a gray day, it's impressive

The 1985 building is owned by Gaw Capital which purchased it in 2015. They have partnered with Legends, a company that runs the observatory for them. Some of Legends' other properties include One World Observatory in New York, OUE Skyspace in Los Angeles, and CEB Tower in D.C. To enhance the guest visit, Team Legends replaced the small outsourced grab 'n go area with an expanded café that they run. Chef Scott Turner (click here to see his background) was hired in May 2018 to develop the seasonal and mostly local menu. "It's a true café, not a concession," explains General Manager Jen Tucker. "We have ingredients delivered and make the food here in our kitchen. We can be nimble in terms of menu changes. A lot of thought went into how a café would be utilized; we wanted to make it a destination, a place where people can linger. We added dedicated seating, tables for four next to the café counter, and high tables in front. We've added an espresso machine." Menu items include a charcuterie board, flatbreads, salads and sandwiches. A staff favorite is the crab stuffed mushrooms, and there is a small kid's menu. Food and beverage are ordered at the counter, this isn't meant to be a full-service restaurant. "We've used pegboard for the menu, and subway tiles behind the counter, and went for a natural theme which you see in the wood in the café and downstairs as well."

Beer and wine have always been available, but they've added spirits and increased options. "Beverage-wise, it's a mix of local and national," says Jen. "Visitors like to try something that's made locally, and we have four local spirits, and a number of local beer and wine options. We've created some cocktails like the Seattle 73 which uses local Copperworks Distilling Co.'s gin. We also sell Rachel's Ginger Beer as a non-alcoholic option." The café just opened in June, so the team will be watching what people seem interested in, plus they'll keep an eye on what's new in the market, so evolution will occur. "While we're rooted in tourism, we're proud of our local guests. Having great food and beverage creates more opportunity. What a view while you eat!"

The café team has handled smaller events like Fourth of July and Seafair, but larger events are handled by caterers. "We can accommodate about 400 guests for events and parties," says Jen. "We carefully chose four exclusive providers because we feel they represent different audiences: Kaspars Catering & Events, Catering by McCormick & Schmick's, Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes, and Foodz Catering."

Some of the other enhancements made recently are:

Creating a new 4th Avenue entrance with glass doors and a "living wall" (yes, plants are real). The entrance leads you directly to the ticket desk. They created the 700 4th Ave address (not the same address as the building) to make it easier to get Uber and Lyft to the right spot. It also makes tour and school buses truly accessible for the first time.

beautiful staircase on the first floor that is used by visitors as well as building tenants has been added.

A souvenir photo opportunity awaits before you get to the elevator. Once on the 73rd floor, you can look at it and purchase it if you would like. You get a hard copy as well as a digital copy sent to your email.

In the past, you had to take two elevators. Now there is just one immersive elevator ride. On the way up, you learn about the geologic history of the area. On the way down, beautiful photos of nature.

The view has been expanded in various steps over the years. At one point, the view was 270°, then it went to 360° visibility-wise, with a wall inhibiting full-roaming access. Last summer, it went to a full 360° with no walls, so guests can walk completely around and see the entire panorama.

Wall plaques describing what you're looking at or giving you photo tips have been updated.

Tablets were added at window level to give more information about what you see. 32 attractions partner with Sky View to provide content, i.e., while looking at the Space Needle, you can read about it on the tablet. To create your own tour, use a pin to notate as many of the sites you want, then email it to yourself.

A new liquor license allows guests to carry their beverage of choice around the floor or enjoy it in the café. Note: you can't take alcohol around the elevator. It's only a few feet, but you'll need to walk around the other way again. Hardly an issue, just more time to look at that view again.

As guests leave, they are guided through the retail shop just in case they want a memento.

Stairwell in lobby has as full house during weekday lunch hours

As Jen explains, "The goal of the renovation was to streamline the guest experience and provide interactive options. We're looking at a lot of fun things to add, like maybe yoga in the morning or a happy hour. We have a bird's eye view of the stadiums, so we're thinking about that. But really, it's all about the view."

Sky View Observatory
700 4th Avenue, Floor 73
Seattle, WA 98104

Seasonal hours; check website

Connie Adams/August 2018

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Revolve True Food & Wine Bar


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