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Ballard, Farmers Market
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Ballard restaurant owner: Thankfully surviving due to ‘very loyal customers’

The Ballard Farmers Market. (Ursula Reutin, KIRO Radio)

Various businesses in neighborhoods across Seattle have struggled to cope during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and Seattle’s Morning News has explored each neighborhood’s unique experience.

Dave Ross recently spoke with Adam McQueen, the owner of Skål Beer Hall, and Mike Stewart, executive director of the Ballard Alliance, to get a sense of how the Ballard neighborhood is coping.

Stewart says businesses are trying to make it though this year as they did the last, and appreciates how many have tried to adapt to the rapid changes.

“Well, I think like every other neighborhood around the city, and frankly around the country, we’re trying to get through. We made it through 2020. One thing I’m particularly proud of is kind of the hard working spirit and ingenuity of our businesses, especially our restaurants, who have been working hard to open up street cafes, adapting and changing, and adapting and changing again,” Stewart said.

“And I think that that hard work, I’m hoping, is really going to pay off,” he added.

For McQueen, his beer hall has been able to stay in business thanks to loyal customers and adapting their business to survive.

“We’ve thankfully been able to stay in business while we’re operating at about 40% of a normal year. We thankfully have 1,500 people that are part of our mug club program. We have a very loyal following. It’s the same people that kind of come in and then get takeout from us,” he said. “We’ve got five tables outside on Ballard Ave on a covered pergola. Those are always full of this past weekend, … so thankfully, people are still coming out,” he said.

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McQueen says a recent GoFundMe campaign also helped them survive, with much of the money going to employees they had to layoff in the second round of dining restrictions.

“Then we also just did a GoFundMe campaign back in December. We raised $20,000 in a little under 48 hours. I think that really speaks to the loyal audience that we have, and the majority of that money went to people that we had to, unfortunately, layoff with the second round of dining restrictions that were put in place back in November,” he said.

“But people have been very generous, and the places that they want to survive, they’re coming out and supporting them,” he added.

Since we don’t know how long the vaccine rollout is going to take, does McQueen think it’s possible for restaurants to return to indoor dining with safety measures, or that the reduced capacity outdoor model is the only thing that’s safe enough?

“I think we’d be able to get people back inside specifically at that 25% level,” he said. “We have very much been following all of the guidelines in a very strict way. … In going out and experiencing other restaurants in Ballard, everyone — when we were allowed to have people inside — were very strict about what the policies are, and I think if those are followed, we can safely have people back inside.”

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“A lot of these spikes that we’ve seen in cases from November through to now have been when restaurants are closed,” he noted. “So that kind of speaks to the fact that people are still gathering in their own homes and not following the protocols when they’re not in a public space.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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