Tuesday, June 27, 2017 This Week's Paper

Hilltop sees bartender shuffle

A new cocktail lounge is on its way to Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. Hilltop Kitchen is under construction at 913 Martin Luther King Way, the spot formerly occupied by Tempest Lounge. And owner Chris Keil plans to have his new establishment up and running by June 1.

“It's going to be another craft cocktail lounge,” Keil said. “We’re gonna focus a little bit more on Latin American spirits, so mezcal, tequila, rum – that kind of stuff. But we’re still going to have a pretty expansive back bar, so we’re gonna have a little bit of everything for everybody.”

Hilltop Kitchen, or HK, is setting up shop around the corner from 1022 South, a trendy cocktail bar that has served up tasty alcoholic confections at 1022 S. ‘J’ St., since 2009. Keil was that establishment's general manager and driving force until last week, when he posted an online farewell letter to patrons, saying he had been fired.

“I don't know what is going to happen to the bar, but it can't and won't be the same because the owners don't share my values,” Keil writes in the post, located at “I would be shocked if they continued to work with local farmers and vendors or if they sourced ingredients based on quality and not profit margin.”

1022 South co-owner Neil Harris, who also owns the New Frontier Lounge, did not return calls seeking clarification. But his bar remains open, and a classified ad seeking a new general manager and bartenders has been posted since Keil's departure.

Ernest A. Jasmin, Tacoma Weekly