JOHN CURLEY AND SHARI ELLIKER

Beloved Seattle cafe ‘crushed’ by ever-growing costs

Dec 19, 2016, 6:01 AM | Updated: Jan 2, 2017, 8:40 am
Louisa's closed down near the end of 2016. (MyNorthwest)...
Louisa's closed down near the end of 2016. (MyNorthwest)
(MyNorthwest)

The owner of a beloved cafe and bakery says the costs to operate in Seattle contributed to the sudden shuttering of its doors.

Alcena Plum, former owner of Louisa’s on Eastlake, says the closure is reflective of a city that is becoming increasingly expensive to be in.

Related: Disappearing Seattle has become a cottage industry

“I don’t want to put this all on the minimum wage, but it was definitely a factor,” she told KIRO Radio’s Tom and Curley. “There were ongoing issues with the business for years.”

Plum says the business was struggling to make ends meet. The city’s minimum wage law, which requires employers with 500 or fewer employees to pay at least $11 an hour by Jan. 1, was hurting Plum’s bottom line, she says.

However, there were other factors that played into the closure.

“This type of business doesn’t necessarily bring in enough revenue to employ as many people as I was able to employ before,” Plum said. “Then service goes down because I don’t have enough staff or our wait times are longer for food because I can’t afford to hire enough people in the kitchen. Never mind the huge labor shortage for kitchen staff in this city.”

Plum says it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find qualified candidates — or any candidates at all — to work in the food service industry. The people moving to Seattle and King County are all doing so to work in the tech industry, she says. She’s not wrong.

According to Gene Balk with The Seattle Times, the number of people born in Washington and living in King County declined.

Between 2014 and 2015, their number fell by more than 17,000 — a 2 percent drop,” Balk writes. “There are now 850,000 Washington-born residents in the county or 40 percent of its total population.

By the same token, Seattle’s housing market became the hottest in the nation as the booming tech industry drives record population growth, GeekWire reports. Transplants “flock to the region” for tech jobs.

“People are working in tech,” Plum said. “You don’t have people moving into [Seattle] to work in a kitchen … It doesn’t pay the most, although the wages are going up.”

Plum says when she places ads for the cook, she now gets zero response.

What is possibly the most frustrating part of the closure for Plum is she had to put 20 people out of work with only a day’s notice. Some of her employees had worked at Louisa’s for 18 years or more. Plum started a GoFundMe campaign to try and help her former employees.

As far as other restaurants go, Plum says they are probably tackling similar issues. However, some establishments may have multiple restaurants or are backed by more money.

“Look who is backing them. Where is money coming from?” Plum asked. “That’s a question above my pay grade. I’m a single mom with a café-bakery. I don’t know how people make this stuff work anymore, to be honest.

“We were being crushed under the weight of debt and things we weren’t able to pay for anymore.”

Related: Will Amazon Go be our friend or foe?

Residents of Seattle shouldn’t be surprised if they see menu prices continue to increase due to ever-growing costs, Plum says.

As for smaller places like Louisa’s go, Plum doesn’t hold out much hope.

“Places like mine won’t survive this.”

John Curley and Shari Elliker on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to tom and curleyTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 3pm for John Curley and Shari Elliker.

John Curley and Shari Elliker

John Curley and Shari Elliker

alaska...
MyNorthwest Staff

Alaska Airlines CEO anticipates ‘choppy May,’ issues mea culpa as flight cancellations rack up

Alaska Airlines is facing issues with contracting and a shortage of pilots, leaving travelers to deal with a surplus of flight cancellations.
3 days ago
Pramila Jayapal...
John Curley and Shari Elliker

John and Shari: Political pressure to forgive student loan debt is well-timed ahead of mid-term elections

President Joe Biden and Congress’ plan for student loan debt remains an outstanding question as Democrats look towards the midterm elections.
29 days ago
diner, tip...
John Curley and Shari Elliker

John & Shari: Inflation has forced some people to adjust their tipping habits

Inflation is driving up prices lately on nearly everything, and it seems to be leading some people to tip less at restaurants and for other services.
2 months ago
John Curley, Shari Elliker...
John Curley and Shari Elliker

John Curley and Shari Elliker want story ideas from listeners

John Curley and Shari Elliker are looking for story ideas and could use your help. If it's good, you may even get a gift from John of his choosing.
2 months ago
teachers...
John Curley and Shari Elliker

John & Shari: Seattle teachers can keep masking if they’re concerned about safety

In a change of plans, and against the union's wishes, masks will soon be optional for all teachers, staff, and students at Seattle schools.
2 months ago
Russell Wilson...
John Curley and Shari Elliker

John & Shari: If Russell Wilson leaves Seattle, his home could be on the market

While everyone else is thinking about the football impacts of Russell Wilson leaving Seattle, John Curley is thinking about what will happen to his home.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Beloved Seattle cafe ‘crushed’ by ever-growing costs