Now you just need a garage for your pandemic cider bar: New bill would make it easier to run ‘home-based’ businesses in Seattle

Yonder Cider (Image: City of Seattle)

Don’t mess with a Seattle neighborhood cider bar. While solutions for the city’s biggest problems around equity, police violence, and homelessness have been elusive, the Seattle City Council is quickly nailing down the red tape that allowed complaints to take down a much loved neighborhood business in Greenwood.

A new “Bringing Business Home” bill introduced Monday would give more flexibility in city codes for small businesses run out of apartments, homes, and garages while Seattle remains under its COVID-19 emergency:

Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6 – Northwest Seattle), Chair of the City’s Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee, together with Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez (Pos. 9 – Citywide), introduced C.B. 120001 on Monday, titled “Bringing Business Home, a Small Business Flexibility Bill,” in an effort to provide additional support and a means towards economic recovery for small businesses adversely affected by current land use codes during the pandemic. After hearing from a small business impacted by the current rules, Strauss drafted, and González co-sponsored, legislation to adopt interim regulations to allow businesses greater flexibility to operate out of garages and residences.

“The proposed changes recognize that while the current COVID-19 economic recession has forced small, independent businesses to find creative solutions to survive, City regulations have not kept up,” the announcement reads. “This legislation allows small businesses to bring their businesses home, reducing one of their largest expenses, rent.” Continue reading

With applications due for $4M next round, 10 Capitol Hill and Central District $10K Seattle small business relief fund grantees weigh in

If you own one of the 9,000 Seattle businesses that applied for a $10,000 city grant early on in the pandemic but weren’t chosen during the first three rounds, there may be hope once again.

Seattle’s Small Business Stabilization Fund, rolled out in March, has now been revitalized as part of the City Council and Mayor Jenny Durkan joint $5.5 million COVID-19 small business relief package passed in August. Of the businesses selected in this upcoming round, at least two thirds must have five employees or less and identify as “high risk of displacement or highly disadvantaged.”

So far, 469 businesses have received grants through this fund and over 60 of them are in District 3 neighborhoods including Capitol Hill and the Central District. The application period for this next round closes on Monday. You can learn more here.

For some Capitol Hill and Central District businesses, the grant was a necessary part of staying afloat during a time when federal and other sources of funding weren’t panning out. For others, it’s just one part of a larger effort to withstand the ongoing pandemic, especially in light of recently  tightened COVID restrictions.

  • SugarPill: The Pine and Broadway apothecary was one of the first businesses to receive a city grant. Owner Karyn Schwartz says it was the first type of governmental funding SugarPill received, coming through at a much needed time when invoices from the previous holiday season were piling up along with rent and payroll. “Without that grant, SugarPill would quite possibly have not survived,” she said. “It was a godsend in the early days of the pandemic.” Situated just down the block from 11th and Pine, she says the grant carried SugarPill through six straight weeks of near total closure as limited capacity shopping and curbside pickup were halted during this summer’s Capitol Hill protest zone. “It provided me, most importantly, with a little extra time to think about my next move, and to do the horrific work of applying for every other kind of assistance with a slightly less paralyzing sense of panic,” Schwartz said. Continue reading

GSBA’s Chernin announces retirement as business org starts search for new leader

The GSBA’s Louise Chernin, center, has been in the mix around Capitol Hill businesses for decades

A leader for the Seattle business community — and Capitol Hill — is ready to step aside.

The GSBA, the E Pine-headquartered LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce that manages the Capitol Hill Business Alliance advocacy group, said Friday that CEO and president Louise Chernin will step down after decades of work in the business community.

“A decision may be both right and difficult at the same time, which is true of my decision to retire as President & CEO of GSBA, a position I have held for nearly 19 years,” Chernin said in GSBA’s statement on the change. “It is not an overstatement to say that serving in a leadership role in GSBA has been one of the most impactful, fulfilling, and life-changing experiences of my life.”

The GSBA says it is launching “a national search to ensure an inclusive and successful recruiting process for the next President and CEO.” Continue reading

Grant program for Hill and CD small businesses doubles in size

The GSBA has announced it has been able to double the size of a grant program developed to help Capitol Hill and Central District small businesses survive the economic turmoil of the COVID-19 crisis.

CHS reported last week on more than 150 applicants hoping for one of the 20 grants the new program was hoped to award. The community business nonprofit has announced that it has raised enough funding to provide twice as many grants: Continue reading

A small program to help Capitol Hill and Central District businesses through COVID-19 has 150 applicants — and 20 grants to give

Frame Central is taking appointments

The federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program officially ended on Saturday and — to give you a sense of how this is all going — progress on a new package of COVID-19 economic relief is stalled in the other Washington. In comparison to the trillions of dollars being debated in D.C., $2,500 isn’t much but a new relief fund from the GSBA for the Capitol Hill and Central District is hoped to bring some small measure of financial relief to a handful of shops, restaurants, and small businesses. And there is hope to grow the program to help more.

“Capitol Hill didn’t just have to deal with COVID and anything related to that but also the protests, the riots, teargas, CHOP — there were so many different layers that the business owners have to work through,” the GSBA’s Ilona Lohrey said.

GSBA, Washington’s LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce, is launching this project using a $50,000 donation from Comcast. GSBA will divide the donation into 20 grants of $2,500, but Lohrey told CHS they hope to raise funds to double that number and provide 40 grants. The first round of grant-giving will focus on businesses in Capitol Hill and the Central District and, in particular, LGBTQ, BIPOC and women-owned businesses. Continue reading

As more get the go-ahead to reopen, businesses in the Capitol Hill protest zone seek city support

Small businesses on the edges of the Capitol Hill protest zone — many of which have been using their facilities to help the communities and activists at work there — are in the midst of figuring out how to safely and economically sustain their businesses as COVID-19 restrictions are slowly lifted and in the middle of a rapidly changing demonstration and camp right outside their doors.

“The decision to reopen was literally a survival mode decision — our staff cannot live off unemployment, they have to go back to work to feed their families. We have to go back to work to pay rent,” BANG owner Casey Nickole tells CHS.

Nickole reopened her four hair salons at 25% capacity on Monday after three months of closure. BANG’s E Pine location is situated less than half a block away from the East Precinct where protestors have established and maintained a camp and demonstration area for more than a week.

This week, King County applied to move into Phase 2 to gradually lift COVID-19 restrictions. Local businesses after an interim step this month which allows restaurants, retailers and personal services like hair salons to open to the public at limited capacities. By Friday, things could open up a little bit more.

For a little over a week, BANG turned its Capitol Hill locations into spaces to aid protestors at the Pine and 11th standoff. The business offered bathrooms, food, phone chargers, wifi and medical support to protestors.

“We treated a rubber bullet wound, tear gas — we were like putting people in the shampoo bowls and rinsing their faces off,” Nickole recalled. Continue reading

For Capitol Hill’s gyms, COVID-19 restrictions a heavy weight to bear as fitness moves online

Osiris, owner of Urban Fit Studios, has overcome the challenges of a rapidly-developing Capitol Hill, but COVID-19 lockdown might be a weight too heavy to lift. (Image: Courtesy Urban Fit Studios)

COVID-19 shutdowns have hit small businesses hard but many have quickly reinvented themselves. That kind of makeover might not be possible for all of us on “stay home” lockdown but thanks to Capitol Hill gyms finding new ways to connect while trying to stay afloat, you can still get a workout at home.

For Osiris, owner of the membership-based Urban Fit Studios at 1500 Summit, the forced closure is even more agonizing given his history of struggling to stay on the Hill. “The sad thing about this is, years ago I got bumped out of my space because of the development of Capitol Hill,” he said. “I was debt-free prior to that, and then I had to take out another loan to move it to another space. Five years later I’m almost debt-free, but now I’m faced with all these forgivable loans.”

Osiris echoes what most small, independent gym owners on the Hill are going through: It’s hard to navigate the landscape of promised aid. Continue reading

Hoping for the best, Capitol Hill small biz fundraisers boosted by anonymous $10K gifts

 

Who wouldn’t give $10,000 to help Hardy and Buster?

Two neighborhood shops in need are cautiously optimistic — Is there an anonymous neighbor helping to save Capitol Hill businesses one secret $10,000 gift at a time?

Harvard Ave’s Twice Sold Tales is one recipient. After launching its fundraising appeal to help save the used book shop and a post on CHS, an anonymous $10,000 donor joined more than 100 others to help owner Jamie Lutton leap beyond her goal of “one month’s rent.” Continue reading

With another $310B lined up, Rep. Jayapal — and Seattle small business owners — question federal Paycheck Protection Program

(Image: Sea Turtle via Flickr)

Rep. Pramila Jayapal told her Seattle constituents this week that she was torn on how to vote on a new $480 billion COVID-19 relief package, acknowledging positives such as money for desperately needed testing but said she was worried the massive package won’t address the needs of working people.

UPDATE 3:35 PM: Jayapal joined her colleagues in approving the aid package:

My constituents are desperate for help. I voted for this bill because Democrats took an insufficient Republican bill and made it better—but this package is so far from sufficient.  It does too little to respond to the public health emergency and stop the economic free fall. Every minute we do not act is another death, another family devastated, another business shuttered.

One small victory for Democrats like Jayapal concerned about large companies muscling in on the previous rounds of payroll protection funding — $60 billion of this round will be earmarked only for small lenders.

ORIGINAL REPORT: “It has good principles in it, but I have heard from all of my constituents that it is not serving the needs of too many people,” Jayapal said at a meeting of Seattle’s 43rd District Democrats via video conferencing Tuesday night. “It is not getting money to the unbanked, it is not getting money to people who are not high on the list of the banks that are out there.”

The U.S. Senate approved the package, which would give an additional $310 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Tuesday and the House is expected to vote on it Thursday. Jayapal called the small business aid program into question during the meeting, citing economists she’s spoken with who say the PPP “won’t solve anything.”

“It is not bold enough, it is not big enough,” Jayapal said. “We are trying to use systems that are from, in some cases, the 50s and other cases maybe the 70s or 80s to respond to a crisis that is in 2020 and massive.”

In an online Q&A session with Seattle small business owners earlier in the day on Tuesday held by the GSBA business advocacy organization, Mark Costello, Deputy District Director for the federal Small Business Administration, tried to relax concerns from owners who applied but didn’t receive approvals from their banks and lenders before the first round of PPP funding dried up.

“I believe your application is in there,” Costello said. “You’ve done everything you need to do. Try to have patience as SBA tries to work through the really daunting level of demand this program has spurned.” Continue reading

To weather COVID-19, Seattle freezes rent for small businesses

Work from artist James Spencer on E Olive Way’s Revolver

Seattle’s small businesses and nonprofits hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis got a small boost Monday as the City Council passed legislation that freezes their rents and enacts a ban on commercial eviction during the crisis in the form of negotiated “payment plan” requirements.

The legislation follows Mayor Jenny Durkan’s order prohibiting “the eviction of a small business or nonprofit tenant for non-payment of rent or because an existing lease terminated during the civil emergency period.”

“Small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, and those forced to shut down are worried they won’t be able to restart their businesses after the initial crisis is over,” West Seattle representative Lisa Herbold said about the passage of her bill: Continue reading