Dear Mayor Durkan, Councilmembers, Bruce Harrell, Lorena Gonzalez et al,
I own The London Plane restaurant in Pioneer Square, at the corner of Occidental and Main Street. We are on the brink of having to lock our doors because our staff can no longer take being on the front lines of mental health and harassment patrol. We have stayed open throughout the pandemic and feel proud of being able to serve the community who supports and loves Pioneer Square. But we are at a complete loss as to how to handle the relentless aggression that plays out at our business.
We are at risk of our staff quitting because they can no longer take having to deal with this. As you may or may not know, there is a crisis in available employees in the restaurant business right now and we absolutely cannot afford to lose any of our staff. We are already understaffed.
There is an incident with a mentally unstable and/or aggressive individual harassing our customers and staff on our patio nearly every day that we are open (Wednesdays – Sundays, 10-4), and often many times a day, be it the same individual or multiple individuals.
This past Sunday, 9/5, went above and beyond. The day started with a a dog attack outside, followed by dog abuse, and shouting and the throwing of chairs. It was followed by the arrival of a man who has regularly tried to steal from us and has been violent when approached. He showed up, unmasked, trying to gain entrance to our space. Our staff had to inform this individual that he is not welcome here, not knowing how violent he will be in his reaction this time. After that another unstable individual spat on one of our servers, and threatened to kill one of our employees, after they approached him about moving on and not harassing customers.
Our chef called MID. They informed him that they didn’t handle these issues. He then called the police, four different times throughout the day. They did not come until well after the fourth call, at which time they parked and watched from their car as our staff dealt with the harassment of customers on the patio. Eventually, another police car arrived and they pursued the individual around the block. We know the police are understaffed and we know they aren’t necessarily the solution to these problems anyway.
We have reached out to City Council before. Councilmember Andrew Lewis was kind enough to come talk with us, and has encouraged us to connect with the Just Care team. We’ve been trying to do that but haven’t been able to connect with them so far.
Perhaps a solution would be to close our patio? This would be unfortunate for many reasons, the risk of indoor dining and COVID being one of them. And do we really want a city where it is unsafe to sit outside and enjoy a cup of coffee?
I am ready for some REAL solutions, ones that don’t ask servers, chefs, and small business owners to solve problems we aren’t equipped to deal with. Please let me know if you have any thoughts.
Katherine Anderson, Owner, The London Plane