E Pike might seem a long way from Osaka but mid-March… that feels like a world away.
That’s when Capitol Hill chef and restaurateur Shota Nakajima debuted Taku, his new addition to the neighborhood’s food and drink scene. A month later and in the midst of an outbreak that has killed more than 300 in the county and brought restrictions that have decimated its economy, Nakajima’s mission is to try to preserve what he can and keep as many of his employees as he can on the job. Tiny Taku continues to serve and employ but his Adana at 15th and Pine is temporarily shuttered.
“I have to keep the people working while trying to rebuild the community that I’ve put together. Because of the circumstances, I’m obviously failing at one of them,” Nakajima said.
Keeping his workers employed means paperwork, applications, and forms. Like hundreds of business owners around the Hill, Nakajima was waiting to hear back on his application to the federal Paycheck Protection Program for a forgivable loan. The day CHS spoke with him, Nakajima said there was optimism with buzz about the first approvals finally coming through. “Today was the first day that I heard people were starting to get approved,” he said.
By Thursday, the program was tapped out. Nakajima said he would move on to the next option, a $10,000 lifeline from the Small Business Administration’s new Express Bridge Loan Pilot program.
So far, Nakajima says he has been able to provide a small lift for the people he has had to let go. He was able to raise $1,000 for each laid off employee with hopes for raising enough to provide $1,000 more in May. Some of the employees have already started work at new jobs including a few new hires at Safeway.
Some of the boost comes from his “Project Snacks” effort which is providing $1 meals from Taku to those who need it. All sales and tips go to the Taku and Adana employee relief fund.
He also has plans to join a community of Seattle restaurants participating in meal programs for health workers. CHS wrote about a program started at 12th Ave’s Ba Bar here.
Taku, in the meantime, was conceived as an Osaka alley-inspired bar with a focus on simple drinking food, fried and on sticks but has grown into the center of Nakajima’s efforts. It is open for takeout and delivery 11 AM to 6 PM on Tuesdays through Saturdays.
About that last part — the delivery — Nakajima says, if you are well and you can, consider picking up your food in person from whatever restaurant you are patronizing these days. The delivery services are taking revenue that is critical to the small businesses. “They take a huge cut,” he says. “If you’re not too far, just walk and pick it up.”
Done safely, the walk will also do you good. Part of remaining open in his home neighborhood for Nakajima is keeping some life on the streets amid the many boarded up windows and empty businesses.
“We open our windows, we blast music,” Nakajima said. “We’re trying to give five seconds of relief to people’s lives.”
Taku is located at 706 E Pike. Learn more at takuseattle.com.
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