IN THE BEFORE TIMES, restaurants in Seattle would close down because the rent on retail space kept skyrocketing, because of a shortage of workers who could afford to live around here on kitchen wages, because of a shift toward generic fast-casual spots instead of interesting ones run by independent operators. Once in a blue moon, the story of an ending was one of a happy retirement, of people and a place having created a lot of joy for a long time, plate after plate. Sometimes a family tragedy took its toll. Sometimes places just disappeared, no specific rhyme nor reason to be found.
Any accounting of permanent restaurant closures in the COVID-19 era includes some of that, but the bare fact of the rug being pulled out from under the economy — necessarily so, in order to prevent deaths — will bring much loss. Here are details on a few of the closures and a list that, sadly, is very likely incomplete, and certain to grow longer.
Brave Horse Tavern and Trattoria Cuoco in South Lake Union: Running restaurants in Seattle’s Amazonland was difficult before, with business largely confined to a lunch hour rife with inexpensive food-truck competition and a happy-hour crowd that mostly retreated before any real dinner-money-spending. In restaurant dog-years in South Lake Union, the near-decade run of Tom Douglas’ Brave Horse Tavern and Cuoco is a long one. Douglas cited the leases being up on both spots as the primary reason for the permanent shutdown, but neither had reopened because COVID’s got Amazon and other tech companies working from home — with uncertainty about when, or even if, they’ll return. These two are the first permanent shutdowns from any of the city’s biggest-name industry players, but they are highly unlikely to be the last.
Adana on Capitol Hill: Chef Shota Nakajima first opened high-end Naka, then reworked it into Adana’s more affordable three-course format with a very fun bar menu (including excellent sandos). He opened his nearby smaller place — a bar with skewers and other Japanese snacks called Taku — just five days before the governor-mandated COVID-19 restaurant dining-room shutdown. Nakajima reopened Taku briefly for takeout, but says the money wasn’t penciling out and his team was exhausted. The decision to close Adana permanently, while bittersweet, just made sense, he says — he was able to get out of his lease, and now can focus his efforts on reopening Taku when he feels the time is right and his team will be safe. He plans to hold kaiseki pop-ups in the Taku space to exercise his culinary creativity.
Il Corvo in Pioneer Square: Chef Mike Easton started his beloved place for very affordable, very delicious handmade pasta lunches in a gelato shop before moving to a shoebox of a Pioneer Square spot. When he opened gorgeous, upscale Il Nido in the Alki Homestead building last summer, his wife, Victoria Diaz Easton, took charge of Il Corvo. Tragically, she died suddenly of non-coronavirus-related causes earlier this spring, and Easton announced the closure of Il Corvo in early May. Deepest sympathies to him and the family.
MORE COVID-TIMES CLOSURES: Bill’s Off Broadway on Capitol Hill, “with heavy hearts … due to situations outside of our control,” after 40 years, including the rarity of a successful transplant from an old building to a new development on the same corner; Bisato in Pioneer Square, following the departure of chef Scott Carsberg, though it appears that something called Bisato Shop is in the offing; Biscuit Bitch in Pioneer Square and White Center, an “excruciatingly painful” decision by owner Kimmie Spice, who has, however, been able to keep her original two Belltown locations alive; The Brooklyn downtown, after countless oysters “with a heavy heart … due to the devastating economic impact of global events”; Burgundian in Tangletown, with many thanks including to “the beer industry, the lifeblood that runs through our veins,” and with sibling spots Bottleworks and Brouwer’s Cafe carrying on; Essential Baking Company Cafe in Wallingford, citing “the uncertain times of the restaurant industry” after decades in the neighborhood; Heartwood Provisions downtown, citing “so much uncertainty” and saying “sometimes good things must come to an end”; Hecho in Greenwood, with the last day a final Cinco de Mayo; Jules Maes Saloon in Georgetown, open since 1888 and as such, the oldest bar around — with owner John LeMaster saying a rent increase from $5,500 to $7,000 on top of COVID meant the end; The Lounge by AT&T and Ada’s Discovery Cafe on Capitol Hill, the end of a strange hybrid of multinational conglomerate retail and local cafe dressed up as Central Perk from “Friends”; Other Coast Cafe in Lower Queen Anne, leaving just the Ballard branch open for “Your Sandwich Salvation” after last summer’s closure of the Capitol Hill location; Pintxo and Branchwater in Belltown, citing the coronavirus and saying “There is no light at the end of the tunnel” while thanking “beloved guests” and “heroes” of staff; The Sexton in Ballard, saying, “These are hard times. But all I see is love. Thank you, friends”; Square Knot Diner in Georgetown, though owner Scott Horrell says he’s got “other plans for the space” and that the kitchen remains in use for next-door sibling 9lb Hammer; Toronado in Roosevelt, citing “an uncertain future” due to the COVID-19 outbreak, saying “this decision was not an easy one for us to make.”
AND IN THE DEPARTMENT OF SILVER LININGS, Bavarian Meats in Pike Place Market closed after four generations and 60-plus years, but they’re seeking a new location, saying, “During this challenging time in all our lives it may take us a few extra months to find a home, however, find a home we will!” El Gaucho in Belltown is gone, but should be back just north of Pike Place Market by fall 2020, with CEO Chad Mackay saying, “Packing up all the treasures and leaving our home after more than 20 years was bittersweet, but we are really excited about what lies ahead,” and that progress on the new space continues apace. And Spud Fish & Chips in Green Lake is gone, but co-owner Pam Cordova says it and its vintage sign will return in the new development coming on the site — after she and husband Craig Smith “Take a year off and not cut any fish!”