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Restaurant owner says he’s losing business after Seattle shooting

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

UPDATE: Golmarvi said that after his interview aired, Mayor Jenny Durkan contacted him and said that she would come to his business for a conversation.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Mauro Golmarvi was hurrying out of the calm of his yoga class to get back for the dinner rush at his business Assaggio Ristorante, located at Fourth Avenue and Virginia Street.

January is normally a slow month for the restaurant, with customers’ New Year’s diets and post-Christmas budget-tightening, but he had several reservations lined up for the night, including parties of 10 and 12.

He stepped onto a Fourth Avenue that was completely closed.

In the one hour that he had been at class, a shooting at Third Avenue and Pine Street left one person dead and seven wounded, sending people into chaos and closing the downtown corridor.

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That night, 68 people canceled on their reservations.

“For a small business like me, that means the entire payroll for the week,” Golmarvi told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “It was so devastating.”

It was just the latest in a series of Seattle-area trends that have had a disastrous impact on his livelihood. He blames the lack of free parking downtown and the tolling of the 520 bridge, which began in 2011, for robbing him of his Eastside customers.

“So you rely on the downtown people living in condos to support you,” he said. “And those people are scared to go out.”

The Westlake Park area is notorious for assaults, drugs, and homelessness. Long before Wednesday’s shooting, the portion of Third Avenue where it occurred was known by some as “Stab Alley.” Golmarvi takes the light rail from Westlake Center whenever he goes to the airport, but is afraid every single time he goes up and down those stairs.

“You pray every single time you go in because people follow you early mornings, late night, you can have problems,” he said.

Golmarvi said that the Seattle he started his business in 27 years ago was a very different city. He believes an increased police presence and a greater level of crime prosecution would help take Seattle back to the way it once was.

“I don’t know what happened to our beautiful city. We used to have this amazing Westlake Center; downtown was a treat,” he said. “You would bring your family, ‘Let’s go downtown to shop and dine.’ And it’s gone. It doesn’t exist anymore.”

He used to make a solid living, but now he fears he may at some point have to close his restaurant. With no second or third restaurants to rely on for a bigger profit margin, he cannot see a way out.

“After 27 years working so hard, I pay my taxes, I employ so many people … I cannot raise my prices, I’m an Italian restaurant, I cannot charge for my pasta $35 a plate,” he said. “I’m a very simple place with simple food, and I need to employ these people.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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