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The latest Capitol Hill food and drink trend: hibernation

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.”

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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Nooe
Nooe
4 months ago

PUA ends on 26th which will mean no one can claim for the final week since all claims start on Sunday. Not sure how they picked the date, but it just adds to the pain.

If you claimed from March 15th benefits will expire next week, and since unemployment is down below 8% on a 3 month avg the extended benefits have been reduced or removed.

Not going to be a happy Xmas for a lot of people.

Hillery
Hillery
4 months ago

Dang no wonder so many places on the hill were closed on Friday night even for take out or patio. Then the few places still open had crowds or a line ugh. Stayed on my deck.

RWK
RWK
4 months ago

I wonder if all the restaurants which have put up outdoor tents, heaters, etc are renting that infrastructure, or if they have purchased it? If the latter, it seems like a big waste of money, because not many customers are dining outdoors during the cold, rainy months. Not a great return on investment for the restaurant owners.

Hillery
Hillery
4 months ago
Reply to  RWK

A few places I’ve gone past are constantly packed with lines so it’s either feast or famine out there

steven severin
steven severin
4 months ago
Reply to  RWK

We purchased it. Trying to do everything we could to stay open. The good thing is those that make it will have awesome patios outside come spring.

RWK
RWK
4 months ago
Reply to  steven severin

Yes, but for how long will the City allow sidewalks and streets to be occupied by these tents/patios? Won’t these end once the pandemic is under control and people can once again dine inside?

caphiller
caphiller
4 months ago
Reply to  RWK

Hopefully it’ll be a permanent change, the patios are wonderful and bring so much life to the neighborhood !