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Restaurants near Seattle’s Amazon offices look forward to employee return

A person in a mask walks by a sign asking people not to enter if they are feeling ill or have been in contact with a coronavirus (COVID-19) patient at the downtown Amazon campus on April 30, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

Amazon’s announcement this week that workers will be returning to South Lake Union at the end of the pandemic is good news for nearby restaurants.

Unlike other Seattle tech companies, Amazon will return to ‘office-centric’ approach

John Gunnar owns Portage Bay Cafe, which has a location right next to Amazon’s offices in Seattle. He told KIRO Radio that Amazon has previously made up about 40% of business at that location, “which is a huge chunk when you figure it all in,” he said. But since Amazon moved to a remote work model last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, business took a hit.

After initially planning to bring workers back in June, Amazon now expects to start phasing its U.S. employees back to in-person work “by early fall,” which will in turn mean more business for Portage Bay Cafe and other restaurants in the area.

“We’re very excited because I think the business is off about 40% right now. We’re hoping to get that back in the summer and when they come back in the fall,” Gunnar said.

The one advantage to Amazon employees not being in South Lake Union?

“Well, there’s more parking,” Gunnar laughed.

Restaurants push to keep to-go cocktails and street dining

Seattle-area tech companies Zillow, Microsoft, and Facebook have all indicated over the last year that they plan to pursue a transition to a hybrid work-from-home approach. Microsoft said it would be committing to a “hybrid workplace” even after returning some employees to offices starting in mid-2021.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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