Atlas Kitchen, an Amazon meal delivery service, is renting out Sodos Downtown Cookhouse commissary kitchen, which is forcing out a number of small food business owners, say current tenants.
Atlas Kitchen, allegedly an Amazon meal delivery service, is renting out Sodo's Downtown Cookhouse commissary kitchen, which is forcing out a number of small food business owners, say current tenants. ASK

Three local chefs and multiple tenants received notice in early July that they have to vacate Downtown Cookhouse, a commissary kitchen in Sodo, by September 30. Dave Lichterman, Matthew Bumpas, and John Tran all say they felt blindsided when they found out that they would be kicked out. The kitchen, which has been open since August 2015, is home to a number of small food business-owners, some of who run food trucks, including Roll OK Please, Caveman, The Peach & The Pig, and HoloHolo.

"It’s really upsetting because there’s such limited space in the city," says Bumpas, who uses the kitchen as a production facility for his ice cream business, Sweet Bumpas.

The three say that Amazon is renting out the commissary kitchen space for the next two years.

According to Bumpas, Lichterman, and Tran, Amazon is planning to launch a prepared meal delivery program called Atlas Kitchen, which is similar to Blue Apron, a delivery service, that delivers boxed meal kits.

Bumpas, who has been renting space in the Cookhouse since October 2015, says his friend, who is an Atlas employee, told him that they have been instructed not to talk publicly about the company until October 1. Amazon did not return calls for comment.

"To have this thrown at you at three months notice makes it so you might not survive," Lichterman, owner of Chicago-style pizzeria Windy City Pie, told The Stranger in July. "It’s all legal and I get that, but we get the brunt of it. In terms of being a good corporate citizen, it’s pretty much garbage."

Lichterman has worked out of the Cookhouse since last October as well.

According to Tran, their lease agreement states that management needs to give tenants a 45 day notice if they want them to leave. Their landlord did give them adequate time, but tenants are still in a tight spot.

Some tenants say they received a leaked e-mail, notifying them that they would have to find a new kitchen to work out of, which "got to a lot of people," says Tran, the owner and chef behind John's Kimchi. Although Tran doesn't run a food truck, he rents space in the Cookhouse to prepare jarred kimchi, which he sells at local farmers markets.

Bumpas says he found out through a letter posted by the kitchen's bathroom, pictured below.


Chefs say tenants are panicking because there are so few commissary kitchens in the city. The Washington State Retail Food Code mandates that food trucks, caterers, and similar business must work out of a commissary kitchen to ensure health standards are met, says Becky Elias, food safety program manager at King County Public Health, which issues food permits.

"Some people have a lot of people working for them. It’s going to be hard for people with food trucks to find places that can accommodate them," says Tran.

John Schofield, operations manager for Downtown Cookhouse, says he does not know whether Atlas Kitchen is actually owned by Amazon. He says he was "just as shocked as the food truck guys" when he heard the entire commissary building was being rented out. Schofield, along with the Cookhouse's other tenants, will need to be out of the building by September 30, but he will continue managing the building.

There does appear to be an Atlas Kitchen located at 500 Terry Avenue North, which is in the heart of Amazon's campus in South Lake Union. The space is the former home of Indian restaurant, Shanik, which closed last year.

Downtown Cookhouse's landlord, Marc Morse of Morse Randall Properties, LLC did not respond to The Stranger's request for comment at the time of publication.