The Mecca Cafe was opened in 1930 in Seattle’s Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, a year after C. Preston Smith and his wife Frances opened the 5 Point Café in Belltown in 1929. The Mecca Café and the 5 Point Café became two of the first legal bars in Seattle shortly after the end of prohibition in 1933. Business started to boom shortly after, but that success didn’t go unnoticed by local competitors. A lot of local cafes lost business to the Mecca Café and decided to do something about it. Working with local politicians, they were able to petition for the Washington State Liquor Board to take away the Mecca’s liquor license. Corrupt politicians told C. Preston Smith that he could have his liquor licensed fixed up for a mere $1000. Mr. Smith refused to budge. The Smiths were able to win the battle with the State Liquor Board and reopened the bar with a full crowd of cheering customers.
World War II brought great struggle to the Mecca Café, and just about every food establishment across the country. The Mecca survived because Preston and Frances rationed their products and made sure their employees never went hungry. This provided a sense of loyalty that made the Mecca a Seattle treasure. In 1975, Preston’s son Dick took over as the owner of the family business. Dick shared his father’s rebellious spirit.
David Meinert, current owner of the Mecca Café ,explains that some of Dick Preston’s stunts are the stuff of legend. He had a rooftop faucet hooked up so he could water down the sidewalk to keep loiterers at bay. Dick also worked to give local kids a better life. After seeing that local children were being ignored by the community, Dick spent $3,000 of his own money to build an “illegal” children’s park on an unused plot of land at 3rd and Bell. David Meinert says the rebellious history of the Mecca Café made it an extremely popular destination once the grunge scene kicked off in the ‘90’s. After some lean years in the early 2000’s, David Meinert saved the 5 Point in 2009, buying it just as it was about to close due to unpaid rent, taxes and payroll. Meinert took over the lease, and covered the payroll so the unpaid staff could cover their expenses. Ten years later by purchasing The Mecca, he brought the businesses back together. David Meinert says the spirit of the Mecca is the spirit of the old school Seattle community. All guests can expect large food portions at fair prices with stiff drinks and lively conversation.
Future blog posts will touch on the latest happenings at the Mecca while continually looking back at the incredible history of Seattle’s longest operating eatery in Seattle.