Ask the Critic: Rumors of Death and Destruction from Unnamed Sources

Still in the fight, and still swingin'
The rumor hit my desk early this week: Lunchbox Laboratory in Ballard was closing. From unnamed, anonymous and untrustworthy sources (from the Ballard restaurant grapevine, in other words), I and other members of the Voracious staff heard that the closure was imminent. We heard that it was a done deal. We heard that the situation was desperate. And everyone wanted to know whether or not it was true.

As it turns out, only one of the above things is true. And I went right to Lunchbox Lab's owner, Scott Simpson, to find out which one it was.

"Can I ask where you heard it from?" Simpson asked me when I got him on the blower. And I told him that, honestly, I could not say.

"More than one person," was as accurate as I could be. "And usually, by the time these kinds of rumors reach my desk, they're been heard by a lot of people."

"Well," said Simpson. "I think I can tell you what it is."

Turns out Lunchbox Laboratory is not closing. Not right now. Not today. But Simpson added, "If I can't find a new building, I might be forced to close." Because the one part of that rumor that was true was the disaster part. Apparently, the current home of the Lab (at 7302 1/2 15th Avenue NW) is pretty much falling apart.

"Every cent I've made, I've put back into repairing this building," Simpson told me, making special note of the bad foundation, the cracks. "But actually, we're busier than crap right now."

Part of the (false) news of impending death probably came right from the front page of the Lab's website, which details the loss of the partner who was supposed to help Simpson and Co. move on from their current home. "Many of you have heard we had an investor and former friend who would carry us to the promised land," the page reads. "Unfortunately he dropped us via email on new year eve very unceremoniously at the last moment. It put us on the brink of death, but the Lunchbox and its family will fight to the death to keep a dream alive."

Which is exactly what they did, signing a new lease on the old building and actually finding a second investor to help them out. Everything was looking good.

Until that investor also dumped them.

It was nothing to do with Simpson or Lunchbox Laboratory, but rather a private, personal issue on the investor's side of the deal. But the result was the same: no money, no move, no forward motion. This came as quite a blow to Simpson, and the way he figures it, someone probably overheard him talking about it with someone else and passed it along. "People have big ears," Simpson told me.

But for now, the deal is this: Lunchbox Laboratory is not closing. Business is good. The money is coming in. But Simpson really does need some help finding a new home for his baby.

"Say this," he told me. "Say, 'The Lunchbox Laboratory is looking for someone to help us move into a new building.' I need someone to help me make the greatest hamburger restaurant in the world."

So there it is, folks. That's the skinny. And if there are any investment-minded people out there looking to get into the hamburger game, I'm absolutely positive that Simpson would love to talk to you right about now.

So whadya say? Anyone out there in Hotcakesland able to help out?

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