The 5 Point Café, which is now owned by David Meinert, originated in 1929. Along with the Mecca Café, which is also owned by David Meinert, The 5 Point Café serves as one of Seattle’s longest run family-run eateries and bars. Whether a patron comes in for the large portions of comfort food, the people watching, conversation with the colorful locals, or a stiff drink, they can’t help but be immersed in the rich history of The 5 Point Café. This website will serve to honor that rich history as well as look towards the future of The 5 Point Café with David Meinert at the helm.
The Smith family opened The 5 Point Café in 1929 after years of working in the restaurant industry. Preston Smith started as a coffee boy that worked his way up to manager and his wife Frances worked in the bakery. With years of experience under their belt, they decided to stop working for others and start working for themselves. David Meinert says that The 5 Point Café was successful enough in its first year for the couple to open doors at the Mecca Café on Lower Queen Ave just a year later in 1930.
A big reason for the early success of both The 5 Point Café and the Mecca was their ability to serve alcohol after the end of prohibition in 1933. Neighboring cafes were affiliated with corrupt local politicians and petitioned to have the liquor licenses of the Smith family revoked. With local cops looking for kickbacks, the Smith’s refused to give in. They fought for their rights and eventually won a legal battle with the State Liquor Board. When they were able to reopen the bar, they were met with thunderous cheers from their loyal customers.
David Meinert explains that the hurdle of battling the Washington State Liquor Board was nothing compared to the hardships brought about during World War II. The country was rationing coffee, sugar and other goods. People didn’t have the disposable income to head out to the diner for a meal or a drink. Preston and Frances Smith kept their restaurants alive by tightening up their purse strings and ensuring that their staff never went hungry.
In 1975, the Smith family handed over their business to their son Dick. Dick Smith carried on his family’s legacy for providing delicious food with a rebellious spirt. Under Dick Smith, The Five Point Café installed a periscope in the men’s bathroom, which provided a clear view of the Space Needle. Smith also installed a water faucet on the roof to spray loiterers who would stand outside the restaurant’s windows and annoy customers. Dick’s exploits also showed the heart of the Smith Family as he donated more than $3,000 of his own money to build an “illegal” playground for local children who didn’t have a place to play. By the time the 90’s grunge era hit Seattle, successful and starving artists alike frequented the 5 Point Café.
When Dick passed on in 2001, the 5 Point was sold and fell on tough times. On the brink of closing, The 5 Point Café was purchased by David Meinert. Meinert went on to purchase the Mecca as well and along with an outstanding staff, Meinert has resurrected both historic diners back to prominence.
Future blog posts will touch on the latest happenings at The 5 Point Cafe while continually looking back at the incredible history of Seattle’s longest operating eatery in Seattle.