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'It's a celebration': Tula's closes its doors after 26 years

Tula's Restaurant and Jazz Club in Seattle has seen a full house nearly every night this month. Its last show Sunday evening was no different.

This summer's announcement that the haven for local jazz would be closing at the end of September was not a shock to musicians and longtime patrons. But it did prompt a sort of resolve among jazz fans to enjoy the time they had.

"It's a celebration," Tula's manager Jason Moore told the crowd before introducing the club's second-to-last-ever set. "It's really not a sad thing. It's bittersweet."

Owner Mac Waldron says the Belltown neighborhood block where Tula's is located is expected to be razed and redeveloped. Commercial rents in Seattle being what they are, finding a new space just wasn't in the cards.

"We just can't stand in the way of progress," Waldron said.

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Credit Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX
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KNKX
Mac Waldron, founder and owner of Tula's Restaurant and Jazz Club.

The cheery and warm atmosphere Sunday belied the fact that Tula's exit after 26 years in business leaves a large hole in Seattle's jazz scene. 

While venues such as Dimitriou's Jazz Alley will still pull in some of the best acts from around the country, Tula's was a place fans and musicians could count on for intimate, local jazz almost every night of the week. 

"This is my sixth show this week," said longtime patron Ann-Marie Granger. "It's just gotten increasingly more familial."

Tula's attracted young musicians cutting their teeth. But it also featured hometown heroes such as trumpeter Thomas Marriott, vocalist Greta Matassa and pianist Bill Anschell. Anschell, along with Michael Glynn on bass and D'Vonne Lewis on drums, played the club's final show. 

"In terms a rooms that features local artists and has these kind of amenities – great piano, great sound, great looking place, audiences that actually listen – it's going to be hard to replace," Anschell said.

Waldron, the owner, was a little more optimistic. 

"I'm sure somebody else will pick up where Tula's has left off," Waldron said, adding that businesses are opening all the time in Seattle. He agreed that Seattle is, after all, a jazz town.

"I don't think I could have done this in any other city," he said.

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Patrons Ann-Marie Granger, Steve Siranides, Aly Crase and pianist Bill Anschell talk about Tula's before its last show Sunday night.

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Credit Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX
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KNKX
Bill Anschell headlined the final night of operations at Tula's on Sept. 29.

A Seattle native and former knkx intern, Simone Alicea has returned to the Pacific Northwest from covering breaking news at the Chicago Sun-Times. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.