Why I went out to dinner last night and why you might want to do it too

Things are changing quickly, but it's a good time to think local and support the places that make life good here

March 12, 2020
Empty restaurant

I took it, because I ate there

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I went out to dinner last night in West Seattle with my son and his mother. We dropped into a place we've gone dozens of times in the past few years -- a place called Copper Coin in the Admiral neighborhood. It's not fancy, but it's super family-friendly, the food is better than it needs to be, they've got a well-stocked bar and lots of local beers on tap, the staff is warm and remembers you if you've visited more than once, and there's usually a nice crowd of people and a happy buzz in the place. Usually, but not now.

That photo up there is from last night at Copper Coin. We were the only diners in the place for much of the night. A couple huddled in a booth in the back, and later a big group of a couple of parents and for our five kids came in. At least one person picked up a to-go order and quickly hustled out of there.

I understand why people are skittish about dining out, I really do. And I know there are life-and-death stories around this pandemic that seem more important than how many tables are occupied at one little restaurant in West Seattle. But for me, in my immediate world, this is as bad a sign as any that we're in a grim situation here, and that for all of Seattle's dominance in tech, its unstoppable growth and prosperity, we're still vulnerable to forces we can't foresee or control.

Seattle's iconic restaurateur Tom Douglas just announced that he's closing 12 of his 13 restaurants for 8-12 weeks because his business has fallen off 90 percent.  If a guy with his resources can't make a go of it right now, that doesn't bode well for dozens and dozens of mom 'n' pop places around the Sound. The real people who own and run those places need our help as much as any friend or relative who's actually ill with the effects of the virus. 

In a weird way, I felt like I was doing some good in the world just by defying fear and going out for a meal, and that's a strange feeling. It's probably not going to make that much difference in the long run, and I hope in the long run that sweet little restaurant survives this challenging episode. But it's a good reminder that besides the immediate danger of the virus itself, there are human costs and human feelings that we may not consider. Taking your family or your sweetie out for a meal or a drink may seem indulgent and unimportant in the face of what's happening, but I think it's a generous gesture. You're adding a little bit of fuel to Puget Sound's economic engine and maybe keeping some place's doors open and its staff on the payroll for one more night. That means something. 

Sure, wash your hands, try to sit a safe distance from others, and hey -- if it makes you feel better, bring your own antibacterial wipes to sanitize your table. Or just call ahead for a to-go order. If you feel sick or you're at risk, obviously you need to stay home.

But think about what things will be like when this pandemic runs its course (which it will) and all of our favorite, quirky, local, independent cafes and bars and restaurants and dives are just a memory. That's a big part of what makes the Northwest the Northwest.

It's a good time for compassion, selflessness, and a gentle attitude towards our PNW bothers and sisters. We're all in this together, in ways we may not even realize yet.  


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