Seattle business owners looking to city to help stem violence

SEATTLE — Small business owners are sounding the alarm.

They say the city of Seattle needs to feel safe again for them to survive beyond the pandemic. The violence is taking a toll on their staff and their bottom line.

These concerns extend well beyond Pioneer Square, according to business owners here. And they say the sight of tents not just here but all around the city is not helping.

On this sunny Saturday before Valentine’s Day, love is in the air in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. But there are storm clouds hanging over those running their businesses in this historic neighborhood.

“I love Pioneer Square,” said Linda Walsh, owner of Clementines. “I love my location. I love my neighbors. I want this to work. Eventually, though, I need to see things improve because I cannot do this forever.”

Walsh’s clothing store has been in Pioneer Square for seven years.

“I need people to feel safe coming down to Pioneer Square,” said Walsh. “I need there to be more foot traffic.”

“We’ve had the furniture stolen,” said Jonathan Fleming, owner of Pioneer Square’s D & E restaurant. “You know, we’ve had the restaurant vandalized.”

Fleming, whose restaurant is on 2nd Avenue South, says he and his neighbors are not alone.

“I have a lot of friends in the restaurant community all throughout Seattle,” said Fleming. “And they’re all dealing with similar issues.”

These concerns were borne out during the latest meeting of the Seattle City Council’s Economic Development Committee. Business owners across the city are relaying their concerns that the lack of safety is eating into their bottom lines.

“Oh, it’s definitely affecting our business,” said Nick Bui, owner of Dong Thap Noodles in the Chinatown-International District. “We lost easily half of our sales.”

Bui says he will move his restaurant that has been in Little Saigon for seven years, to Tukwila.

But others, like the owner of The London Plane, believe the city can do what it takes to keep businesses here.

“Bicycle cops are a good thing,” said Katherine Anderson. “When they have relationships with the businesses. And with the people who sleep outside. And when we have the appropriate resources to call.”

Seattle’s mayor, Bruce Harrell, has pledged to tackle the crime that is plaguing just about every neighborhood.

And these business owners tell us they are willing to give him time to do it.

But they also say they need to see results soon, so they can thrive right here.