Duke’s Chowder House signs lease in Bellevue

A Puget Sound favorite will be making its way back to Bellevue this spring.

Duke’s Chowder House, a seafood restaurant chain with locations in Alki Point, Green Lake, Kent, Southcenter, Lake Union and Tacoma is planning to open a flagship store in the Lincoln Square expansion in Downtown Bellevue. The restaurant signed a lease to be part of The Bellevue Collection last week.

Duke Moscrip, the chain’s founder, said that the location was shooting for an April 20 opening date. The location would have seating for 210 people and was planning on hiring 75 employees.

“We got off to a little bit of a late start,” he said. “But we’re hoping we can make that date. We know that Downtown Bellevue is the place to be.”

Duke’s Chowder House already has a history in Bellevue. Moscrip went to Bellevue High School just a few years behind Kemper Freeman, Jr., from whom he is renting the 6,200-square-foot space on the second floor of the Lincoln Square expansion.

The two also attended the University of Washington and joined the same fraternity, so there is some familiarity between the property developer and the restaurateur.

“He’s one of my favorite people,” Moscrip said of Freeman. “And I don’t think there are many developments in the world which can rival The Bellevue Collection.”

Duke and his son and business partner John Moscrip have discussed creating a “Ralph Lauren-style fishing lodge” atmosphere in the restaurant. He’s so confident in the design, he is already preparing to submit it for a James Beard restaurant design award, before major work has even begun.

Duke’s Chowder House opened a Bellevue location in 1976, where the Downtown location of Bartell Drugs currently is on Northeast 8th Street. The eatery was there for 15 years until the landlord wanted the parking for a different purpose and did not renew the lease. Duke’s then moved to Lake Bellevue in 1994, where it operated for another seven years before ultimately closing that location.

“We saw the handwriting on the wall years ago, and knew that Bellevue Square was the place to be,” Moscrip said. “We were close to making a deal where Starbucks is, next to P.F. Chang’s. That got tied up at the last minute and in the meantime we opened our Kent, Tacoma and South Center locations.”

Moscrip said the high foot traffic, location on the second floor of the Lincoln Square expansion and the proximity to the skybridge along with The Bellevue Collection’s free parking were all major draws.

“It’s an unusual situation with how nice it is,” he said. “We got lucky.”

Entering its 45th year of business, Duke’s Chowder House maintains its product of wild, fresh-caught seafood is sustainable and responsible.

Jim Melby, president of Kemper Development Company, did not return a call for comment.

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