2018 brought another wild ride in the Seattle restaurant industry — here's a look at the last closures of the year, plus how they figure into the larger scheme of things.
Every restaurant closure — save maybe those made by heartless Scrooges at huge restaurant conglomerates — involves a difficult decision. The endings of independently owned places that function as community hubs in Seattle — like Naked City and Scratch Deli, chronicled below — now involve confronting the not-so-nice effects of our city’s growth, followed by heartache, hugs, toasts. But the other two stories here, of Jiaozi! and Navy Strength Coffee and Juice, are a different sort: Owners of small businesses who’ve already got more going on elsewhere, making plans to revamp or relocate.
Overall, what we saw in the past year in the Seattle restaurant industry represented the continuation — the acceleration — of a crazy restaurant boom. The most recent four closures, which occurred over the last month-plus, are outweighed by 19 fresh openings. New places outstripping shutdowns is also reflected in the back-of-the-napkin math for 2018 as a whole, in which my colleague Tan Vinh and I counted 71 Seattle-area restaurant-and-bar closures versus 362 openings. That’s even boomier than our stats from this time last year for 2017: 85 closures versus 290 openings.
Seems a bit unsustainable, yes? What will happen next, in an uncertain economy, is anyone’s guess.
Naked City Brewery & Taphouse in Greenwood: “After ten magical, glorious years of beer, food, and culture,” Naked City in Greenwood has closed, saying that “the rising costs and rapidly changing neighborhood have created challenges” they couldn’t overcome. They’re grateful for “So many beloveds. Through a gas explosion and arson fires, election nights and holiday tree lightings, a love of community has been the beating heart of the Naked City.” There’s a Naked City Last Call GoFundMe to help out staff who lost their jobs at the holidays; the last night was Christmas Eve. The Naked City branch on Camano Island (recommended for a post-hike happy hour) remains open.
Scratch Deli on Capitol Hill: This sweet spot in a little house on 12th shut down after six years of sandwiches, stand-up comedy, music and more. “As the city continues to grow, so do the requirements for small businesses like ours to exist,” the Scratch team says. “It breaks our hearts to close our doors, but know that we gave our best and had a hell of a good time with all of you … On to our next great adventure!”
Jiaozi! in the Chinatown International District: Owner Elaine Song says her excellent spot for dumplings shut down because the lease ran out. The good news is that she plans to reopen next summer in Bellevue’s Asian Family Market — and, meanwhile, she’s already opened a Bellevue branch of Meet Fresh, the international chain for traditional Taiwanese desserts serving treats like 8 Treasures Shaved Ice.
Navy Strength Coffee and Juice in Belltown: Owners Chris and Anu Elford have closed the cafe next to their Navy Strength bar — which, as the official Best New American Cocktail Bar, is still going strong. But stay tuned — the space won’t be vacant for long, with plans for a natural wine bar afoot, according to Nosh Pit blog.