Capitol Hill Business Alliance holding in-person ‘Community Conversation’ sessions

The Capitol Hill Business Alliance wants to meet with you — in person — again.

The group formed during the pandemic as a Capitol Hill-focused wing of the citywide GSBA business advocacy organization is moving its monthly “Community Conversation” sessions back into the real world with a community meeting planned this week at 10th Ave’s Little Oddfellows.

The change comes with new leadership. Former neighborhood small business owner Laura Culberg now serves as the CHBA membership manager.

The November agenda is wide open with the session hoped to give neighborhood business representatives the opportunity to discuss issues with Culberg and “chat about small business life here on Capitol HIll.”


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No Capitol Hill or Central District representation at City Council small business roundtable

The Seattle City Council’s Economic Development Committee is hosting a roundtable discussion Wednesday with representatives for small businesses from across Seattle “to hear about the barriers they face as well as proposed solutions to create a more thriving city.” Nobody representing Capitol Hill or the Central District made the list.

The council says scheduled participants will include representatives from the Alliance of Pioneer Square, the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Association, the Ballard Alliance, Friends of Little Saigon, SODO Business Improvement Area, The U District Partnership, and the West Seattle Junction. Continue reading

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