It would be understandable if Otmane Bezzaz took his insurance money and never reopened his Seattle restaurant after an arsonist torched the Central District building early Monday morning.
After all, the building at the corner of 23rd and Union is supposedly cursed. Two previous owners have been murdered, one inside the building and another nearby over the last ten years, The Seattle Times Danny Westneat reported earlier this week.
“I love my community here and the people in the CD here,” says a defiant Bezzaz, who tells KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don Show he plans to reopen as soon as possible. “I don’t believe in the cursed thing. That’s just a myth.”
The 48-year-old Moroccan immigrant first got word of the fire at his restaurant Med Mix Monday morning. “I was shocked. When I went inside, everything was ruined,” he says.
His video cameras captured someone in a hoodie spray painting graffiti on the wall, then pouring gasoline on it and lighting the fire. The graffiti read “4 Pratt and Trayv”, apparently in reference to Trayvon Martin and Edwin Pratt, a Seattle civil-rights leader killed in the 1960’s.
“It doesn’t make sense. If he wants to make a statement, it’s the wrong place to do it,” Bezzaz says.
“I don’t know who they’re trying to hurt or who’s memory they’re trying to glorify, but he put 12 people out of work,” says building owner Ian Eisenberg.
Eisenberg is angry, but trying to keep a sense of humor about such an absurd action. “When you called, I was Googling trying to find one of those people with the sage and the smudging to get rid of the curse.”
Eisenberg tells Don he actually thinks the spray painting is just an excuse for someone to vandalize the neighborhood, and is part of a larger pattern that has nothing to do with the corner.
“The more I look into it, there have been five arsons in the neighborhood in less than a month,” he says.
Regardless of the reason for the arson, both men vow it won’t keep them from the corner. And Don is promising to make sure that happens, mobilizing the thousands of show listeners to head for Med Mix just as soon as Bezzaz can reopen. And he’s calling on everyone to check out the video and help catch the arsonist.