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UPDATE | Restaurant owner vs downtown Olympia’s drug problems

Ann Buck built this wall and door to deter homeless campers from sleeping in front of her business in Olympia. (KIRO 7)

UPDATE: Due to threats made against the business owner and business after this article was published, the Dori Monson Show has removed the name and description of the restaurant, as well as the full name of the business owner. The business owner, Brad, reported that within 90 minutes of the article going up, there were 10 fake reviews online.

Brad said that people seemed to misunderstand what he was saying, assuming that his descriptions of the crimes in the recently-closed Artesian Commons Park were an insult to the homeless community.

On the contrary, he said, “The park was a dangerous place for marginalized, at risk people … people were getting attacked, there were fights.” He added that it was not a “beloved community spot.”

Brad emphasized that “it’s not the homelessness we have a problem with, it’s the crime. We want to be part of helping with the homeless; we’re trying to be part of the solution.”

—– Original story —–

Drug dealing, vandalism, and other crimes in downtown Olympia led the city to shut down Artesian Commons Park last week.

And according to the owner of one mom-n-pop eatery across the street from the park, the crimes have gotten so bad that they have created serious problems for small businesses, which are already facing challenges.

Brad fulfilled a life goal when he opened a restaurant downtown Olympia. However, since the business opened its doors in 2015, Brad has noticed an alarming trend.

RELATED: Olympia closes Artesian Commons Park to the public, but not to the drug-addicted vagrants?

“There’s been a marked increase in homeless population in that time, and it’s impacted us,” he told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

Brad has had to break up fights that have nearly ended in crashing through the eatery’s windows. In one altercation, a homeless person actually used a dog as a weapon, swinging it like a club.

“It’s insanity — there’s a difference between an eclectic population and crazed behavior,” he said.

A charity group gives out needles at night but does not pick them up during the day. As a result, Brad has had to teach his children how to avoid needles when they are walking to their dad’s business.

Reviews online have complimented the food, but also noted how dirty and dangerous downtown Olympia is. One Yelp reviewer called the restaurant “one of the best restaurant joints in Thurston County,” but stated that, as a single woman, she felt uncomfortable having to walk through a crowd of 10 homeless people on the sidewalk to get there.

“It’s tough because we’re trying to run a business to feed our families,” Brad said. “We’re a tiny little restaurant with 10 tables and a diner top.”

He wants to see the City of Olympia come up with solutions to clean up the downtown streets — solutions that do not involve making it even harder for small businesses to survive.

“Right now, their first route is to raise the B+O tax, which is to me kind of unconscionable,” Brad said. “They’ve had a lot of money to deal with and they shouldn’t be turning to us for more.”

Brad has spoken to homeless people on the street, offering them food and trying to help them. Some of them have told him that they had received bus tickets to Olympia from city governments in New Mexico and California. He can only surmise that the reason for this is that Olympia has become nationally famous for its lack of addressing its problems.

“In Olympia, instead of putting the daddy pants on and doing things right, they put the pants on their heads and run around like they’re crazy,” he said.

Still, in closing down a downtown Olympia park that became a center for drug dealing and drug use, Brad hopes that the city is taking a first step in finally cleaning up the streets.

“We want to be a part of the solution, but the city keeps putting us in really difficult positions,” he said. “And they did something hopefully positive now, but it’s definitely had an impact on our ability to do what we do.”

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