Shops and restaurants are already struggling to survive because of the pandemic. Now, businesses in West Seattle are getting slammed with another major blow.
Infrastructure problems mean the West Seattle bridge will be closed until at least 2022 -- cutting off shops from many of their customers for years.
But shops are getting creative to figure out how to make it through this new crisis. Many have moved as much as possible to online sales and come up with new products. But the bridge closure means these pandemic tactics may be needed for years to come.
“Just going to have to cope with this, adapt, innovate,” said Matt Vaughan, the owner of Easy Street Records & Café in the West Seattle Junction.
He’s now also the delivery driver, bringing people food and music all over King County, and shipping albums worldwide.
“We’re hustling you know, I’m out in this van every day,” Vaughn said. A sign on the van says, “Rock ‘N’ Roll never quits.”
“We gotta rise up to the challenge. You can’t let the big dogs run over you,” Vaughn said.
A half-block down is West 5 restaurant. They’re doing takeout, but is also getting creative with what you can buy.
“We’ve come up with a Mai Tai survival kit. We thought people might need a little island flavor to get them through these trying times,” said Dave Montoure, owner of West 5. The Mai Tai kit comes with all the liquor and ingredients – including some secret ones – you need to make six servings of the restaurant’s well-known cocktail.
These business owners say there’s a lot of community support.
“Just an outpouring of neighbors coming out,” Montoure said.
But the pandemic has forced both Easy Street Records & Café and West 5 to lay off most or all of their staff.
Then the fiasco with the West Seattle bridge happened. Inspectors noticed spreading cracks and shut it down three weeks ago.
Now the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) says if repairs can happen, the bridge would still be closed until 2022. And that closure would be longer if the bridge needs to be replaced.
It’s a lifeline now gone for the 80,000 people in West Seattle.
“It’s shocking,” Montour said. “We’re very concerned about the impacts,” he said.
KIRO7 recorded the major detour route with a GoPro.
From the West Seattle bridge exit to get into town, it took about 20 minutes with no traffic – a drive that used to take five minutes. Post pandemic with regular traffic flow, businesses worry the drive could take an hour or more.
“Economic statisticians say maybe 10% to 20% (of businesses) may not survive through this. And we’re not out of the mix through that either,” Vaughn said.
“And just the pandemic. And now think of the added instability added with the bridge out,” Montour said.
The West Seattle Junction Association is working with the city and county to come up with ways to help.
One is to launch its own delivery service for food and retail, bypassing steep third-party fees.
“I think that’s one of the ways we can work through the next two to five or 15 years,” said Lora Radford, executive director of the West Seattle Junction Association. She said companies like Grubhub and Caviar claim 30 % of a restaurant’s profits on an order.
It also plans to work with King County to increase public transit.
“Additional runs for the water taxi and maybe some smaller vans or buses that will transport people within the district,” Radford said. “We want to give them hope that when we do reopen the doors again, we can with gusto,” she said.
Meanwhile, West Seattle business owners are showing a special kind of determination.
“I’m very hopeful. This is my neighborhood. I will hang on, I will grind, I will dig in my heels, and I will stay in business,” Montour said.
“That’s what Seattle is all about -- this is the land of opportunity, this is the gold rush city,” Vaughan said.
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