GSBA & Broadway BIA Hold Press Conference on COVID-19's Small Business Impact

by Cade Schmidt | Mar 12, 2020

“Restaurants are living, breathing things. When you take the oxygen away, they die,” said Tamara Murphy, chef and co-owner of Terra Plata, during a press conference held on the rooftop of her Melrose Ave. restaurant on Wednesday, March 11.

In partnership with the Broadway Business Improvement Area (BIA), led by Executive Director Egan Orion, GSBA held a press conference with local business leaders to call attention to the significant financial impact the coronavirus has had on Seattle’s small businesses. Since the first cases of the cororonavirus (COVID-19) were reported in the Greater Seattle Area in late February, many GSBA small business members have reported a loss in 30 – 90% of revenue.

This has led to the loss of income for service workers who depend on tips, businesses reducing operating hours, and the laying-off of employees. Several businesses throughout the area have temporarily closed to wait out the crisis, and some have shuttered their doors for good.

Member businesses of Capitol Hill Business Alliance (CHBA), a program of GSBA, have experienced a drastic reduction in business with the cancellation of events and conventions in nearby downtown.

CHBA Member Gregg Holcomb, owner of Witness and the newly-established Olmste(a)d on North Broadway, spoke to how the toll of the crisis, “North Broadway is my neighborhood. My wife and I got married at All Pilgrims Church there back in 2001,” said Gregg. “For years, I would walk by the old Broadway Grill space empty and vacant, and I saw what a tear in the fabric of our community existed there.”

After five months of remodeling the space left vacant for six years, Olmste(a)d opened on December 21 of last year.

“It wasn’t the best time to open a restaurant, but we were hopeful that all we had to do was make it to spring, and then people would come in,” said Gregg. “Well, spring is here and no one is coming in… I’ve already taken out an SBA loan. I’ve taken out all the loans I can and am looking at other additional loans with crazy interest rates, just to make it past this thing and into summer.”

When asked if temporarily closing up shop was in the cards, Kristi Brown – owner of That Brown Girl Cooks and an in-the-works restaurant in the Central District, Communion – said it’s not an option.

“The bills don’t stop,” said Kristi. “The fact that we’re in the process of opening up a restaurant, there are construction people on site right now, painting there, I can’t stop them. I have to pay regardless.”

Donna Moodie, owner of Marjorie on E. Union, shared Kristi’s sentiment, “To shut your doors to the community that you serve all the time, where people come when they’re in need - not just for food and for a meal – but for an experience of find out what’s going on, sharing news, supporting each other, sharing stories, find out the names for help – that isn’t going to help,” said Donna.

Watch the full press conference here.

What can you do to help our regions small businesses? If you're staying in, have tonight's dinner delivered from one of your favorite local restaurants. Purchase a gift card from a small business near you. Give your neighborhood a shout-out on social media. Tip generously. Find an LGBTQ or allied-owned business near you via the GSBA Online Guide & Directory.