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

9,000 apply, 250 get help — Seattle’s Small Business Stabilization Fund $10K grantees include Capitol Hill gallery, Broadway teriyaki joint

Inside E Pike’s Roq La Rue

One of the last remaining dedicated Capitol Hill art galleries, a neighborhood apothecary, a Harvard Market sneaker consignment shop, a Central District postal services shop, and a Broadway teriyaki joint are among local concerns awarded $10,000 each in the first round of Seattle’s Small Business Stabilization Fund grants.

Like most things around the warped impact of COVID-19, the announcement was a sad moment on a brilliantly sunny Seattle Easter Sunday for thousands of businesses including hundreds across Capitol Hill and the Central District left out of the initial award round. The city says some 9,000 shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, and businesses applied. 250 grants were awarded.

The gap demonstrates “that the need goes far beyond what the City can provide without further support from the private sector, philanthropic partners and economic relief from the federal government,” the announcement from Seattle City Hall reads.

Capitol Hill grantees from lottery system that selected qualified businesses include E Pike’s Roq La Rue Gallery, E Pine’s Sugar Pill, Harvard Market sneakerhead paradise Sole Mates, and longtime Broadway standard Teriyaki and Wok.

In the Central District, familiar names include MLK and Union’s The Postman, E Madison’s Simply Soulful, and That Brown Girl Cooks!, the catering business of Communion restaurateur Kristi Brown.

A full list of the first grants is at the end of this post. Continue reading

Seattle moving on COVID-19 economic relief including eviction ban for small biz, nonprofits, and arts orgs

The City of Seattle is moving forward on some key initiatives including a ban on commercial evictions to support restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, nonprofits, and arts organizations paralyzed by the social distancing measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Wednesday, Mayor Jenny Durkan is expected to sign an emergency order “prohibiting the eviction of small businesses and non-profits during the COVID-19 public health crisis,” Seattle City Council Insight reports. Among its restrictions, the order will prohibit “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.” A small business will be defined as a business with 50 of fewer employees “per establishment or premises.”

The move follows a similar ban on residential evictions in the city.

Tuesday, Durkan announced a $1.1 Million Arts Recovery Package to “support creative workers and arts and cultural organizations impacted by COVID-19.” Continue reading

What is the ‘Spirit of the Hill’ in 2020? Sugarpill’s Schwartz and Poppy’s Traunfeld reflect on small businesses ‘holding space’ on Capitol Hill

Times change in any neighborhood. The group serving as Capitol Hill’s chamber of commerce will honor two members of the neighborhood’s business community Tuesday. The Spirit of the Hill awards are about as close to a tradition as the neighborhood’s shops, bars, and restaurants come. Better honor these two quickly. One has already moved away for a new life in Palm Springs. The other?

“I’ve got to decide this year if I’m going to continue,” Karyn Schwartz says of the current lease status of her E Pine Sugarpill apothecary. “I have yet to make a dollar.”

The Spirit of the Hill awards, given out now by the Greater Seattle Business Association’s newly formed Capitol Hill Business Alliance, honor the work owners and, sometimes, public officials have done “on behalf of Capitol Hill’s small business community.”

Schwartz will be the first to say they don’t hand the award out based on sales and revenue.

“I’d love to think an honor like this is about people holding space for community. It’s the whole reason I have the store,” she said.

“I’m lucky to still be there.”

Jerry Traunfeld is also feeling blessed. Last year, he stepped away from the restaurant business, selling his north Broadway creation, Poppy, after 11 years of thalis, garden fresh herbs, and eggplant fries and making a new start in Palm Springs.

“If you water things, you can grow anything you want,” Traunfeld says of the new climate’s effects on his gardening.

Traunfeld, too, will be recognized by the GSBA Tuesday night with a Spirit of the Hill legacy award meant to recognize his long, successful presence on Capitol Hill. Continue reading

Seattle launches Small Business Stabilization Pilot Program with $25K grants for eight ‘vulnerable micro-businesses’

The efforts are limited in scale but Seattle is ramping up programs to help small businesses survive an increasingly expensive city. A new Small Business Stabilization Pilot Program will help eight Seattle “micro businesses” get on the right track, Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office announced Tuesday.

The first-time pilot program will provide the eight owners with $25,000 grants that can be used to cover “day-to-day operating expenses of the business, such as payroll or losses due to destabilizing events.” Continue reading

With studio approaching 20 years on the Hill, new owner stretches out with SweatBox Yoga

Assaf (Image: SweatBox Yoga)

The SweatBox Yoga studio sits in the middle of Pike/Pine where more than a few of the nightlife venues are now owned by tenders, chefs, and managers turned bar and restaurant owners.

Earlier this year, Frani Assaf officially took ownership of SweatBox Yoga  after starting as a student and teacher at the Capitol Hill mainstay since the early 2000s.

“She’s always risen to the occasion. She and I are both from the midwest. We get that mentality and we get each other,” longtime owner Laura Culberg said. “Once I hired a broker and put the SweatBox on the market, I met with a few people who were interested in buying the studio and my gut told me it wasn’t right. I couldn’t imagine selling this living community to a stranger . . . A lot of people think Frani is the owner already, and it seemed like a natural fit… Frani at the helm would be the best for the community.”

Assaf has taught yoga since 2003, and was recently SweatBox’s studio manager. Hailing from Iowa, she trained as a dancer for over twelve years and was introduced to yoga around 1996 when she and a friend started practicing poses from a book in their living rooms. Continue reading