As inflation reaches a record high in the U.S., the doomsayers of the restaurant industry have yet to prove correct — at least in the Seattle area. New openings have bounced back, big-time, with a flood of restaurants and bars debuting in recent months as we (hopefully) come out of the pandemic and move through summer, traditionally prime grand-opening time. And meanwhile, the rate of Seattle-area restaurant closures continues to be low — lower than pre-pandemic, despite not just the new inflation numbers but rising food and rent costs, as well as rampant staff shortages, stretching back many months.
Grants have certainly played a role in keeping some local places afloat — Crosscut reports that more than 28% of Washington’s federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund awards went to Seattle-based restaurants, totaling more than $344.8 million.The top 23 grants — each one for between $3.3 million and $10 million — went to Puget Sound-region businesses, and about 89% of the 145 businesses awarded more than $1 million were in the Seattle area. Local restaurants have also tightened belts, with curtailed hours now the norm — many are now only open Wednesday through Saturday, and finding places serving lunch has become something of a challenge. (Meanwhile, in perverse good news for both owners and staff, many popular places are perpetually packed, with the potential of compressing earnings into fewer days while allowing those in the industry more time off to have lives.)
While few restaurant closures are more sweet than bitter for chef/owners, the 11 recent Seattle shutdowns listed here nearly all have a bright side. The majority of the spaces already have new restaurants set to move in (an indicator of industry optimism, if a highly anecdotal one). Some of the places continue to thrive in other locations — with, in one case, plans to expand out-of-state. One owner intends to make a comeback with a more viable business model, while another looks to find better work-life balance. So, with less of a dim outlook, to the list …
Beach Bakery in Rainier Beach: After almost seven years, this sweet community gathering spot has closed, with a heartfelt Facebook post from owner Amy O’Connell calling it “the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. “She thanked patrons for their “amazing support” through the pandemic, but said, “80 hours a week have caught up with my old(ish) body and I have to move on to things that allow me to take better care of myself.” The bright side: She mentions pop-ups or a cookbook. And: “I love you all so much.” And, then, in another post, “Couldn’t be more excited to share this news!” — that also-beloved King Donuts will be moving in later this summer.
Glo’s on Capitol Hill: After 35 years, favorite divey diner Glo’s is closed after a fire caused exterior damage and extensive smoke damage to the interior. “It’s a super-bummer,” owner Julie Reisman messaged, adding that if/when reopening will happen in the East Olive Way spot is “hard to say, at this point.” Bright side: Work had already begun on a new location at the Capitol Hill light-rail station, with the move set for this winter (and a liquor license in the works, for bloody marys and mimosas galore). Glo’s fans can donate to a fundraiser at givebutter.com/glowup.
Ma’ono in West Seattle: Originally known as Spring Hill when it opened in 2008, this favorite for fried chicken is all done, but owner Mark Fuller is definitely not — the South Lake Union and University Village locations of Ma’ono inside Rachel’s Ginger Beer remain open, as do his other West Seattle spots New Luck Toy and Supreme, plus a second location of the latter in the U District. Moreover, as a bright spot for those who’ve missed its Pirates-of-the-Caribbean atmosphere, Fuller has just reopened West Seattle classic the Admiral Benbow Room with drinks, DJs and hot dogs for sustenance. Further: The flagship Ma’ono space is set to become a different restaurant under a new owner TBA.
Mt. Bagel in Ballard: As a pop-up, it was so popular, you could hardly ever get bagels, and now after a brief time of brick-and-mortar, this spot is done — in Seattle. “It’s tough to say goodbye,” owner Roan Hartzog explained on Instagram, “but life stuff is happening and long story short, I’m moving” — to Bend, Oregon, where he’ll start bageling again, so: very bright side for Bend.
Zippy’s Giant Burgers in White Center: A favorite since opening in Highland Park in 2008 through a move to White Center a few years later — with a second Georgetown location for a time — Zippy’s farewell met with 597 comments in mourning on Facebook. “To say this decision is heart-breaking is a monumental understatement,” owner Blaine “Zippy” Cook wrote, citing “staffing, inflation and an unreasonable landlord … [as] factors that ultimately led us to this.” No bright side was cited.
The Canterbury on Capitol Hill: After a rotating cast of owners and an upscale revamp, the formerly beloved dive bar with the suit of armor is finally meeting its demise after almost half a century in business. Bright side for the 15th Avenue East business community and fans of Fremont’s Rasai: The owners of that place are set to open Meliora, a “modern European” restaurant, in the space, with the suit of armor still standing by, according to Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.
Little Chengdu in Mount Baker: This Sichuan place closed after four years with — bright side — the owner sweetly offering to teach fans how to make their favorite dishes. And, more good news: The space has already become Taiwanese restaurant Uncle Lu.
Bar Charlie on Stone Way North: Owner Christian Thomason marked this closure “with a mixture of extreme excitement and sadness,” saying that “it’s been a hell of a ride, an accomplished life goal, and an insanely humbling & rewarding experience.” But, bright side: Notable pop-up Tio’s Baby is set as “the new denizens of the bar … fantastic fellas who sling delicious Mexican food and mouth-watering beverages,” according to Thomason.
Schmaltzy’s Delicatessen in Ballard: In business since late 2019, this deli made the announcement “with great sadness” that “the economic metrics that we built our business model on no longer exist due to the pandemic and its lasting effects on our economy, costs and labor.” But, bright side from the owners: “we will be coming back after some months with a new Jewish concept and a different way of executing it that fits into how things are now.”
Biscuit and Bean in Ballard: “After 8 years of serving this amazing community, we have decided to move in a different direction,” B&B announced on FB — and, bright side, that different direction involves both keeping their Lake Stevens location and “very soon an LA location!” More bright side: The owners told My Ballard that a new restaurant is set to move in and will feature the signature biscuit recipe.
Flying Squirrel Pizza Co. in Maple Leaf: A plain-spoken sign in the window announced that “unfortunately” the end had come, but bright side: The Georgetown location remains open.
And one change-up: If you had a day trip to Cle Elum in the works to try local celebrity chef Shota Nakajima’s Banzai Teriyaki, be advised that he’s no longer involved in the project, with no further details available at the moment.