Words & Deeds

‘It’s sad.’ Open since the ’80s, this Downtown Boise restaurant and bar will close

The Piper Pub & Grill has been a Downtown Boise destination for food, drinks and live music since 1989. This photo is from 2012.
The Piper Pub & Grill has been a Downtown Boise destination for food, drinks and live music since 1989. This photo is from 2012. Piper Pub & Grill/Facebook

There won’t be any bagpipers playing funeral songs. The dependable wall of Scotch whisky will make sure the mood stays festive.

But a few tears are bound to land on the bar at the Piper Pub & Grill, 150 N. 8th St., over the next two weeks.

The second-floor fixture in the Capitol Terrace building is closing. A final hurrah is planned on Saturday, Nov. 17.

Gene Hutchison broke the news to his 20 employees on Monday night.

“It’s been a long ride, for sure,” says Hutchison, who purchased the Piper Pub in 2008 with is wife, Erin. “I think it’s sad. Bottom line, I just think it’s a sad progression that happens.”

Opened in 1989, the Piper Pub is one of the oldest combination bar-and-restaurant businesses left Downtown. IS it the oldest? Who hasn’t sipped a cocktail or eaten shepherd’s pie on that outdoor balcony overlooking Main Street?

Slowly but surely, the Boise that natives know is fading into the ever-changing skyline.

Businesses that Idahoans hold dear — but too often take for granted — are making way for progress.

Hawkins Companies, which purchased Capitol Terrace in 2017, is spending $2 million on renovations. The retail part of the building will be renamed Main + Marketplace.

Tenant turnover is part of the evolution. Faced with a month-to-month lease since March, Hutchison decided it was time to exit. He wants to call it quits now rather than face eviction during holiday season, or in the slow January and February months. The Hutchisons will continue running their other business, Capital City Event Center, 622 W. Idaho St.

The writing has been on the wall at Capitol Terrace. A different tenant is being planned, Hutchison says. Months ago, in hopes of staying, he proposed rebranding the Piper Pub — new name, new menu, everything.

No dice. So here we are. “I’m going out on my own terms, basically, rather than someone else’s,” he says.

Piper Pub follows the lead of former Capitol Terrace neighbor Ramen Sho, whose owners made the same move in May after one year of business. Why? The lease contract.

Only Shige Japanese Cuisine remains in that corner of the second floor. But for how long?

“It’s going to be all of us,” Hutchison predicts.

I phoned Shige Japanese Cuisine and reached out to the restaurant on social media, but I was unable to reach the owners.

Hutchison says whatever tenant replaces Piper Pub will need to be pricier. Probably corporate.

“You try and be viable and have a nice local establishment, locally owned,” he says. “But if they go the route of corporate, it’s just money. It’s so expensive down there that those are really the only places that can survive.”

I contacted Hawkins Companies’ director of property management. She forwarded my message along, but my call has not been returned.

It would be nice to get a sense of what Gary Hawkins, owner and CEO, envisions for Idahoans at Capitol Terrace. “The location is among the best in Boise,” he noted in an April media release.

Piper Pub will spend its final days in progressive party mode. Watch the Piper Pub’s Facebook page for details. Next week, there will be a final “Geeks Who Drink” trivia night Thursday. Then one last Friday happy hour. And, finally, a friends-and-family bash Saturday that’s open to the public — a good ol’ days, nostalgia-filled day. “A good chunk of it’s going to be old employees,” Hutchison says. “A buddy of mine who bartended here is flying in from Phoenix. People coming in, making drinks, saying goodbye to everyone.”

“We’re going to blow things up,” Hutchison promises.

Sometimes it feels like that’s the case, literally, everywhere you look in Boise.

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