Popular, award-winning Kennewick breakfast hotspot shuts down suddenly

A popular Kennewick restaurant appears to have shut down.

The chairs are stacked up and the door is locked at Just Joel’s Cafe on Kennewick Avenue. While the cafe’s Facebook page has been taken down, a past image shows owner Joel Watson announced the closure less than two weeks ago.

“If anybody out there is looking to start a restaurant, hit me up,” the post said. “Got all the things you need in place right now.”

The closure came after Watson posted a short video on the cafe’s Facebook page in mid-December saying that the last couple months had been a struggle.

While he didn’t set a date for closing, he said in the post that they would be closing the doors soon.

“Thank you for all of the laughs and love and support,” he wrote. “Thank you Tri Cities!!”

The small cafe known for award-winning pies, soups, breakfasts and burgers had also left a positive mark on the community, wrote Watson, who could not be reached this week about his decision.

Sign at the Just Joel’s restaurant building at 1505 W. Kennewick Ave. in Kennewick.

The shut down came about six months after Franklin County prosecutors charged Watson with second-degree assault for allegedly hitting his girlfriend in December 2021.

He is accused of leaving her with a broken nose and swollen face and she sought treatment at Trios Southridge Hospital, according to court documents. He was charged nearly seven months later and his trial is currently scheduled for Feb. 22.

Dream of cooking

The Kennewick native has not been shy about talking about his troubled past, which he said he turned around when he was 30 and was on a new path to better his community.

Joel Watson is pictured here in 2017.

Joel Watson is pictured here in 2017.

He pursued a dream of cooking which led him to renovate and open the small cafe on Kennewick Avenue.

The breakfast and lunch spot opened in late 2017 and in 2021 was voted best Sunday brunch in the Herald’s People’s Choice awards.

Watson has become a community leader, putting his money behind finding the person responsible for killing cats, paying off school lunch bills for students and supporting COVID vaccination.

Fellow restaurateur Keith Moon who owns Tumbleweeds in Richland posted a heart-felt post Dec. 29 on Facebook, noting what started as an exchange of memes between the men turned into a friendship.

He said he was inspired by Watson’s work with the nonprofit Grace Kitchen in Pasco and “was honored to be asked by Joel to help and assist with buying school supplies for our area children last year…”

“While I knew Joel had a tumultuous past, I can say that I chose to judge him on his works in the time that I have known him,” Moon wrote. “In my experience, Joel has a heart of gold and a soul for giving.”

The Just Joel's restaurant building at 1505 W. Kennewick Ave.  in Kennewick.

The Just Joel’s restaurant building at 1505 W. Kennewick Ave. in Kennewick.

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