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Seattle business forced to lock doors after homeless attack

A homeless attack has a local gallery rethinking its security. (Foster/White Gallery and Shawn Huckins)

In order to get inside the Foster/White Gallery in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, you must either knock or ring the bell. This practice was enacted after a belligerent homeless man assaulted the director inside the building last October.

You may recall the story of Phen Huang, who was struck multiple times with an umbrella after asking an unwanted visitor to leave the gallery. In November, she told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that a man walked in and demanded a glass of water. After she obliged, he began disturbing the displays and creating a mess. When Huang asked him to leave, he slapped her across the face and struck her multiple times with an umbrella, knocking her into a glass case.

Huang no longer leaves the doors unlocked.

“After I got assaulted … at that point, you had to knock,” Huang said.

Seattle business owner looks to leave after having knife pulled on him

Huang said she began locking the doors the day after she was attacked. Fewer customers in the gallery appears to be an unintended consequence of that move.

“Probably,” Huang said, when asked if locking the doors has hurt business. “There are times when people don’t understand. They just think we’re just locked to the broke public, no longer, maybe, a viable business, and they don’t read the sign that says, ‘Please press the bell.’”

While the locked doors may confuse some customers, Huang surmises others are scared off by what’s often inside the atrium, leading into the studio: disruptive campers. She said the entrance is often used as a shelter by unruly “residents.”

“Either really loud, spreading out their things or acting out in such a way that others are uncomfortable to either come in or leave,” Huang said. “So, we feel a little trapped … helpless to help them.”

Pioneer Square has become a popular camping spot as of late. With the increase in campers has come problematic individuals. Just last week, a business owner had a knife pulled on him after confronting a man who was blocking the entrance. Police have since made efforts to clear tents quicker.

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