“We can’t make projections at this point,” he said, preferring to help keep the staff optimistic by focusing on one day at a time. “But it’s working today, and I hope it works tomorrow, and I hope it works Sunday, and then I get a day off on Monday. So we’ll see.”
In the time of the pandemic, even the most successful retail and restaurant businesses are on a razor’s edge.
And most downtown street-level businesses that depend on foot traffic and passers by are really suffering, according to Jon Scholes, who leads the Downtown Seattle Association.
The DSA has been surveying its members constantly, looking for signs of economic life. And it’s picking up a faint heartbeat.
“You know, some of that activity has started to pick up,” Scholes said. “But there’s big chunks of it where we’ve really seen no movement. No cruise ships, no conventions. Very little business travel. Those really big events we’re used to seeing in the summer like the Bite of Seattle, a great Mariners game, or the Storm playing. Those aren’t happening.”
And the impact of all that lost economic activity pales in comparison to the loss of the 330,000 workers who worked downtown before the pandemic. They were the biggest piece of this neighborhood’s economic engine, Scholes said.
Despite those losses, Scholes is optimistic about the future. People want to be around people. And cities have an advantage when in comes to satisfying that desire. Like the line out the door to Macrina Bakery in Belltown, when you see others doing things, you want to also. It’s the same thing with outdoor dining at the Pike Place Market. In this way, economic activity tends to grow in clusters.
This is the reason Scholes says in the long term, people are going to want to return downtown. With so much to do and see, from art and theater to food and shopping, downtown Seattle is the cultural center of the region, and having that at your fingertips before or after work is fun.
But there’s a long way to go between now and that bright future.