Plans for a 13,000-square-foot food hall in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood have been canceled due to uncertainty over technicians returning to the neighborhood.
The Seattle PI first reported on the highly anticipated plans to bring San Francisco’s popular restaurant and market complex China Live to Westlake Avenue in February 2020, just a month before the COVID-19 pandemic hits the city and food like us know has changed.
The company had rented a space at Amazon’s headquarters on the corner of 8th Ave and Lenora near the Spheres and was hoping to open it in 2021 with a rotating selection of local groceries. After the virus outbreak and subsequent stay-at-home orders last spring, owners delayed the opening of the Emerald City outpost until 2022 and planned to switch to more contactless ordering options and pod-style seating.
However, according to Eater Seattle, those plans are not moving forward as owners have weighed the city’s economic recovery against the virus and many tech companies in the neighborhood may telecommute a large proportion of their workers and take away potential customers.
“We’re not going to do Seattle,” said George Chen, co-founder of China Live, on an episode of Eater’s Digest. “It’s not the right concept and location because, like any big secret company, Amazon won’t tell you whether or not their employees can work remotely.”
China Live opened in 2017 in San Francisco on an area of 30,000 square meters and was inspired by the Italian New York food complex Eataly. The Food Emporium offers a variety of options including casual table service and fine dining restaurants, cocktail bars, and retail stores selling condiments, teas, condiments, produce, cookware, and cutlery.
In the South Lake Union neighborhood, several high profile restaurant closings were closed during the pandemic, including two Tom Douglas restaurants in July 2020 that were popular with neighborhood workers for happy hours.
It is unclear when or if masses of technicians will return to the neighborhood. Amazon, which employs around 75,000 people in the Puget Sound area, appears to be proceeding cautiously in reopening its offices, announcing last fall that it would extend corporate work from home until June 30, 2021.
However, some tech companies have begun making plans to return to the office as vaccination efforts increase. Facebook, the region’s fifth-largest tech company, announced in March that 10% of its employees will be able to return to their offices in the Seattle area.
The news that the grocery hall will not have an outpost in the city comes as King County is likely to fall back on Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan this week. If the county rolls back, restaurants will have to cut capacity back down to 25%, adding another challenge to the city’s food scene.