Some of the neighborhood’s main remaining active food and drink players are pressing pause on their hard-fought efforts to re-configure businesses for takeout and creative streetside patio set-ups, opting, instead, to try to wait this all out.
“This isn’t a goodbye and it’s not forever, rather a see you soon,” the announcement from the Derschang Group about its decision to temporarily shut down Oddsfellow Cafe reads.
The shutdowns will bring more plywood to the already mostly barricaded nightlife and business districts. And they will put hundreds of workers onto unemployment after what turned out to be a temporary burst of reopening activity under the summer and early fall’s downturn in new cases and lightened restrictions on businesses
The popular Oddfellows is not alone in Capitol Hill venues opting for a December — and longer? — slumber.
“The plan is spring,” John Richards said in his announcement late last month that his E Pike Life on Mars bar will go into a months-long temporary shutdown to try to survive the pandemic. “We can’t survive with the lack of support out there. None of these restaurants… you’re going to see more restaurants and bars closing — permanently and temporarily — because it impossible. We needs help,” Richards said.
“State, local, federal — we need help.”
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Most immediate is the need for new support for workers facing unemployment. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation plan currently extends jobless aid for an extra 13 weeks after state benefits are tapped out. Meanwhile, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance was put in place to provide benefits to gig workers, independent contractors, and the self-employed. With money for the relief programs set to run out, millions will lose benefits starting December 26th if Congress doesn’t take action.
New unemployment claims in Washington dropped slightly last week with the Thanksgiving holiday. Overall, Washington reported just under 460,000 people claiming benefits in the state last week.
New federal relief could also aid businesses in staying open and bridging the gap until the spread of the virus slows and restrictions can be loosened. In the meantime, cities like Seattle are rolling out small programs to try to help who they can. This week, the city announced another $5 million will be made available to small businesses as part of its ongoing Small Business Stabilization Fund process. Residents and businesses can find a list of existing City of Seattle COVID-19 relief resources and policies here.
The state, meanwhile, has opened up applications for $50 million in small business grants after Gov. Jay Inslee announced the new round of aid as part of the current lockdown to try to stem the rise of COVID-19 cases heading into winter. State officials will decide in the coming two weeks if the lockdown will need to be extended. Given the most recent reports and evidence that households, gatherings, and workplaces are where transmission is most likely, it seems likely that restrictions will continue and more venues might be opting to take a long winter break even after many made plans for new tents, and heaters to get through the cold and rainy months.
Canon, the world-renowned 12th Ave cocktail bar, was an early pacesetter, opting to end its months of efforts to sustain its takeout business and shut down temporarily starting in late November. The bar has plans for occasional events to stay at least partly in motion. Saturday, it will be open to fill special orders in celebration of Repeal Day.
In addition to the challenges of surviving as takeout businesses, closures for some venues will present opportunities to address needed projects.
Oddfellows says it will add a new permanent street patio with a deck, roof, and heaters during the break with plans to reopen “in early 2021.” Its last day of business until then will be Sunday, December 6th.
Life on Mars has also chosen December 6th as its day to go dormant. But they’d like you to consider buying a few things and ordering some food and drink for takeout before they do.
“We’re going to hibernate. Thing with hibernation is,” Richards said, “before you go into that cave, you need to eat.”
Also, while your favorite restaurants, bars, and cafes go dormant, remember that many will continue to have online stores available for merchandise, gift certificates, and more.
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