Last week, we had the news about a bunch of Seattle restaurants hit hard by the economy and struggling to get out from under some serious tax debt--serious enough that the state was suing for its share of the pesos. The long-gone Coupage, Steve Katsandres's Bad Albert's, Taqueria Jalisco and Skillet Street Food were among those outfits that the state was coming after.
And now, over at the Seattle Times, they're reporting on the closure of the huge and historic China Gate--a dim sum joint that has been slinging the shu mai and chicken feet for better than twenty years down in the International District. The reason for China Gate going dark? Non-payment of rent (several months worth, apparently) by owner Kwok Jing Woo who took over the space from former owners Sonny and Macky Wong in 2008.
Everyone knows making a dime in the the restaurant industry is tough. Thin profit margins, heavy competition, fickle customers, crazy expenses--nothing about it is easy. And while maybe taking on a massive karaoke-and-dim-sum operation and trying to run it through the depths of a terrible recession in a neighborhood that is just plain full of other karaoke and dim sum joints was not the best idea in the world, it's a credit to the blind ambition and crazy optimism of restaurateurs everywhere that someone tried.
What's more, it's not like the deadly economy, difficult business environment and all the closures, seizures and middle-of-the-night evacuations of formerly booming restaurants are scaring away new owners. Seattle is still seeing new openings every week. Nettletown, Emmer & Rye, Luc, Burger Central, Baguette--we're gaining more than we're losing, and that's not even a complete list, just what I was able to think of off the top of my head. Macky Wong (one of the guys who used to own China Gate) just opened a different dim sum place in Issaquah a few months ago (Macky's Dim Sum at 317 NW Gilman Boulevard), which seems to be doing well. And guess who he has as a partner? Steve Katsandres, owner of Bad Albert's--proving that not only is the Seattle restaurant scene more full of optimists than one might think, but also smaller and somewhat more incestuous than advertised. My guess is that, despite the recent run of bad luck, the China Gate space won't be on the block for very long. Someone will come along and make a go of it again. And its current owner, Woo? I wouldn't count him out either. China Gate wasn't his first restaurant (he also owned another Chinese restaurant in Kent), and I doubt it'll be his last.
You can read the whole story of China Gate over at the Times. Meanwhile, I'm feeling a bit peckish myself, so I might head over to Macky's to see what Macky Wong has been up to lately. I'll let you know how he's doing when I get back.