One of The Woods Coffee shops with a room listed on eVenues

Ever since the days of the Ottoman Empire, coffeehouses have had a rich history as meeting places. These coffeehouses made their money by providing a beautiful free space for people to meet and to work--provided that they bought a beverage or some baked goods. Customers enjoyed the luxury of these "free" spaces with the understanding that the cost of using the space was included in the price of each cup.

This business model has been the standard deal for nearly five hundred years. So when Wes Herman, the founder of  The Woods Coffee, started charging customers to use a room in one of his shops, it seemed unthinkable.

So far, however, it's proven to be a success.

Story of The Woods Coffee

Wes HermanWes Herman

The Woods Coffee is a chain started by Wes Herman, his wife, and their four teenagers. Over the last ten years they've become a fixture in Bellingham, WA (Pop. 81,000) having built over 12 stores (it'll be 14 by the year's end) within a 20-mile radius from eachother. They have, in Wes' words, "become the local go-to product that allows people to have an alternative to some of the bigger coffee giants."

Of those 12 shops, the Boulevard Park coffee shop, is one that they're most well known for.  It's located in a public park 10 feet from the Pacific Ocean and has been considered by some of the leading coffee trade magazines as one of the best coffee shops in the world.

An Extra Revenue Stream 

While most coffee shops are considered free meeting places (provided that you get a muffin or mocha, of course), Wes decided to convert the Kiln Room at the Boulevard Park shop into a private conference room, because, says Wes, "it was so close to the water and such a unique site that people would want to come down and utilize this space. So we created it in such a way where it's completely private." Wes set the room up with a large table, 12 leather reclining chairs, as well as a 42-inch screen with hookups for whatever presentations might be needed.

View of the Ocean from the Kiln Room

So far this experiment has proven to be a success. In addition to the extra revenue from rental fees, those utilizing the space usually order drinks and food from the shop. Thus, it becomes a two-way opportunity to generate income.

Benefits to the Community

And it's not just The Woods Coffee that has benefited from having this meeting space, but the local community as a whole. "We get emails from folks that say they love the space because it's so unique," says Wes. "It allows them to kind of unwind--get away from the regular pace. We've actually used the room for small weddings. People have multiple day events there where they'll be there for three straight days staying at a hotel nearby."

Wait a minute...weddings? It was hard to believe a wedding would ever happen in such small space.

Wes explained: "A coffee shop is one of those places where people meet for the first time because it's an easy first date and sometimes it turns into a lifelong relationship and they want to culminate that with a wedding in our space because that's where they first met."

Yes. More than one wedding has been held here.

Managing the Space with eVenues

Despite the benefits, both to the business and to the community. Managing a meeting space is, after all, a distraction from the day to day business of running a successful local coffee chain. This had led Wes to look for an online service that would allow him to easily manage bookings. "We didn't necessarily want to take phone calls during the day. We didn't want to have to deal with the collection of money. So eVenues was a solution that allowed us to completely do it without any effort on our part. It allowed us to run a smooth operation as opposed to breaking up our normal routines," says Wes.

Wes told us that they typically have the store manager overseeing the bookings. They log on to eVenues to see when it's booked and then, says Wes, "it's just a matter of greeting the guests and setting them up with the space."

When I asked Wes about any issues they've had with eVenues, he said that overall his experience has been "great," but there has been the minor issue of educating customers and non-profits about discounting programs they might be offering but that overall, "It's been so easy. We don't have to worry about it...We get a check from eVenues and it's all good."

More Meetings, Not Enough Spaces

Tools like Eventbrite,, Plancast, and Facebook's Event Calendar have shown that technology, instead of limiting face-to-face interactions, has done quite the opposite. The one thing missing, however, are the actual spaces where all these events can take place. While happy hour gatherings might be okay for a single's party or a networking event, the lack of privacy can be a little distracting for those who need to make decisions, engage in discussions, and get things done.

Savvy business people like Wes Herman taken advantage this trend by creating private, rentable conference rooms in a places where people usually meet for free. While it's clear that Wes could have probably taken care of all the details himself, eVenues' scheduling and booking services has allowed him to focus on more important things like managing his business. In fact, when you go to the Woods Coffee website to book the kiln room, the link goes straight to its eVenues profile page.

With the growth in small meetings, there just aren't enough meeting spaces to go around. There's no reason why small business owners can't advantage of this trend.


Related Article: A Brief History of Coffee Houses as Meeting Places

Not to brag, but eVenues knows a thing or two about cool spots in Seattle. We've searched and scoured to create a list of unique Seattle gathering & meeting rooms - bookable by the hour or day - for our customers. In the course of the search, we've found a few secret spaces as well. Since you're reading this blog, we know that you're one of the cool kids. So we thought we'd share some of Seattle's best secret spaces just with you (and possibly all your friends on twitter and facebook).

Here they are. Don't tell anyone ;)

5. The Cougar Room at Vito's

Vito's is a bar that originally opened in 1953, and with its seats of studded red leather, its mirrored walls flaked with tacky faux gold, it looks like a place straight out of Goodfellas. It's a place that you'd expect to be coated floor to ceiling with tobacco stains, but since it was recently remodeled after the new smoking laws, Vito's has a bit of surreal cleanliness to it.

Someone had told one of our staff that Vito's had a banquet hall with a stuffed cougar--something our staff member had never noticed was there despite the fact that he had frequented Vito’s several times. His reaction to this was: "What banquet hall doesn't have a stuffed cougar?" He realized, however, that his friend was referring literally to a mountain cat. He went searching for it a week afterwards and this is what he saw:

According to the restaurant's website, the cougar room had served as a boardroom for gangsters and politicians. Now, it's available for birthday parties and similar events. Reservations are required.

Oh, and just so you know, the Cougar's name is Barbara.

Recommended For:  "Gangsters and Molls" theme parties, Monopoly tournaments
Not Recommended For: Ailurophobics Anonymous meetings.

4. Bathtub Gin & Co.

Sometimes a place can be so hidden that you'd almost think the owners didn't want it to be found. The Bathtub Gin Company is located in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, a part of town which may have more watering holes per block than any other in the city. While most of these bars line the streets in plain sight, spilling their music and drunk and fratty patrons out onto the sidewalks the entrance to Bathtub Gin, in contrast, is hidden in a nearby alley away from the the raucous crowds with nothing to advertise it but a simple stainless steel plaque on a brick wall.

The interior is chill, cool, classy and candelit with a loungy area downstairs and an intimate bar upstairs. We could go on about the place but if the fact that IT IS A HIDDEN BAR IN A DARK ALLEY doesn't have you sold, then why are you reading this? ;)

Recommended For: A quiet night amongst friends
Not Recommended For: Jagermeister Chugging Contests

3. The Knee High Stocking Company

Another similarly hidden spot is the Knee High Stocking Company. From the outside, Knee High is completely devoid of any flashy signs or neon lights. In fact, it looks like the entrance to an apartment building.

The door is always locked, so you'll need to ring the doorbell in order for the hostess to let you inside. The door opens and a classy lady (technical term) escorts you through the dark velvet curtains into a room that's so-1920, it almost reaches the level of self-parody. There's something about the warm and cozy atmosphere here, however, that melts away the Seattle freeze that some have experienced here, making your night out here almost feel like a private dinner party among old friends.

Recommended For: First dates, A party for out-of-towners
Not recommended For: Raves, Riverdance rehearsals

Photos used with permission from Kenn Wilson of

2. The Hideout

Here's a place that lives up to its name. If you look for it, you can find the name of the establishment etched almost imperceptibly on the one of the black glass doors. You won't know what kind of place it is until you open the door and walk in.

Their cocktails have character (Their "Andy Warhol" is a Manhattan + a Polaroid photo of yourself). The people are friendly and welcoming, and its wonderfully eclectic art collection is one of the best we've seen in the city. In addition to this, the Hideout may be one of the only bars on the planet to have:

Its own quarterly art publication: The Vital 5 Review. Draw a picture and drop it in the submission box. Wait a few months and see if your booze inspired art made the cut.

A vending machine for art: nuff 'said

"Discreet Theater": Actors are paid free booze to come on select nights and add character to the place.

Recommended For: Black turtleneck parties, Drunk pictionary parties
Not Recommended For: Anti-Sarcasm League Meetups

1. The Needle and Thread

Like many of the best "secret" places, the Needle and Thread is anything but secret. In fact, it made GQ's list of top cocktail bars in the country (#25). What's so "secret" about the Needle and Thread, then?

Well, for one thing, the entrance to the Needle and Thread is above another place called Tavern Law, a classy joint with top notch kitchen, plenty of bar space, and inviting leather sofas. It seems like standard stuff, but there is one little oddity: the bank vault door on the wall. There's an antique phone on the wall beside it. Pick it up when it rings and the vault door opens. You then go up the narrow wood staircase (past pictures of some naughty girls), and you'll find yourself in a intimate little room where you're served cocktails based on your mood. It's not to miss.

Recommended For: Super exclusive poker games
Not Recommended For: Hula hoop enthusiast gatherings, firewalking ceremonies, pillow fight tournaments

Photos used with permission from Pete Andrijeski of

Honorable Mentions/Suggestions From Readers: Was there something on this list that we missed? Please feel free to email our community manager (kenji at evenues dot com) and we'll be sure to put it up!