Layoffs and revised menus ahead as Edmonds restaurateur prepares for indoor dining ban

To accommodate curbside dining, Shubert Ho puts up fencing outside his MarKet restaurant in August. (File photo by Larry Vogel)

Already struggling to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant industry will be particularly hard hit by the latest restrictions Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Sunday. For Edmonds restaurant owner Shubert Ho — who along with partner Andrew Leckie operates four restaurants in the city plus a catering company — Inslee’s ban on indoor restaurant dining means returning to the take-out model his restaurants focused on early in the pandemic.

“It’s obviously a little bit of a shock but not as much as before, as we’ve been through the motions already,” Ho said.

Before the pandemic, the Feed Me Hospitality Group operated by Ho and Leckie had over 200 employees, a number that was reduced to 10 when the governor’s Phase 1 take-out only restrictions were imposed in early March.

Unfortunately, Ho said, people will again lose their jobs as in-house dining is eliminated starting this Wednesday. “It’s going to suck for a bit,” he said. “We have to lay off a substantial amount of people.”

Yet, he stressed that he and Leckie, who own MarKet, Salt and Iron, SanKai Sushi and Bar Dojo, plus Shooby Doo Catering, “have built our business on flexibility.” For example, when the pandemic hit, their restaurants began preparing meals for the Edmonds Senior Center home deliveries, and also helped prepare grab-and-go meals through the Foundation for Edmonds School District’s Nourishing Network.

When the City of Edmonds offered restaurants the ability to expand to sidewalk, curbside and parking lot dining during the summer, Ho and Leckie were among several restaurateurs that took advantage, buying umbrellas, stands and partitions so they could add extra tables outdoors. The city is now working on code changes to allow for longer-term outdoor dining arrangements, although the colder weather has made that less attractive for some customers. (Under the latest restrictions, outdoor dining is allowed with five or fewer customers per table.)

With the indoor dining ban, Ho said that his restaurant menus will be modified — as they were earlier in the pandemic — to include the takeout comfort foods that customers want.

“We’ve always kept the positive attitude vibe and made the best out of the situation,” Ho said.

In that spirit, Ho said that Feed Me Hospitality is proceeding with the opening of yet another restaurant — Fire & the Feast — a pizza and pasta establishment in the former Epulo Bistro location at 526 Main St.

“We will move forward as planned,” Ho said, adding that while the grand opening had been set for Dec. 1, Fire & the Feast may open for takeout sooner than that.

Ho said that compared to other areas, the restaurant business in Edmonds has been relatively stable, thanks to the built-in residential customer base that goes out to eat.

“We have a lot at stake in the community but the community has always done a lot to support us,” Ho said. “Normally we’d be out of business in another community but in Edmonds, there’s a reason why we are still standing.”

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. We look forward to new pizza in Edmonds! And an early open date sounds wonderful. Looking forward to supporting the Edmonds restaurants during the carry out phase.

  2. Can’t wait for Fire and the Feast to open!! That will be great to add to our restaurants!

  3. If Mayor Nelson had any intestinal fortitude, he would tell Governor Inslee that Edmonds small businesses cannot survive another lockdown , and as such, he will not enforce any of the recent draconian mandates.
    Remember folks, you cannot save your village by burning it down.

    1. You are correct Jay. My heart hurts for all of the people who will be laid off again. We are about to see an eviction moratorium from the CDC lifted in January. That is a serious public health emergency on it’s own. Tens of thousands of more people across our State will be on the streets, and we need to take the repercussions of our lockdowns seriously.

      This virus and the deaths from it are devastating, but we need to take reasonable and measured approaches to address it. The most critical thing is to support our local businesses by shopping local, eating local, reducing contact with those outside your household as much as you can, and wearing masks whenever you are out in public.

      Shutting down indoor dining with a voluntary closure does not seem like the best way to address the spread, and it is going to cause people to stop listening to the advice of the State.

      We need both our Mayor and representatives to advocate for small safe restaurants and safely spaced workout areas as well.

      1. Someone predicted this earlier but again I believe all has been said on this topic for now so am closing the thread.

  4. Close all bars and restaurants. No outside tables. No outside or inside dining until January.Carry out with distancing rules in place. This us the only way it will work. And REINFORCE THAT Mask rule…or ticket them. Now. Otherwise your business will be gone. Many who feel ou are being careless will never return.

    1. A reminder to all– If you send a comment that is mostly all CAPS, you violate our policy of three all caps words per comment. I don’t have time to make your comments comply so in the future they will be deleted.

    2. Deborah, I don’t wear a mask anywhere. I volunteer to be “ticketed”.

      How ’bout use the WA State Legislature to create a law requiring masks? What law is requiring restaurants to close even? Here’s the issue. Shubert Ho is going to lay-off, and scale back. He is one of the more successful local reseraunteurs and frankly is more flexible in that way verse some others. Last week I got take-out food from an immigrant-owned restaurant. They asked me “Do you go to Salt and Iron? Is it good?” Me, “Yeah it is good.” “They’re so busy.” Through the broken English I was able to understand that they couldn’t compete. As this tide goes out Shubert Ho will do just fine, but other people aren’t going to be able to tread water.

      Because there is no law demanding that you shut down, the businesses should unionize and organize against Governor Inslee. Stay open.

      1. Matt, I appreciate the difficulty this is for restaurants, and I hope there will be help so they can survive and their employees can keep or reclaim their jobs. However, Governor Inslee’s wise leadership has taken Washington, which is the 13th largest state by population, from being ranked first in both cases and deaths to being ranked 30th in cases and 27th in deaths as of this reply.

        Comments like your “I don’t wear a mask anywhere” simply tell me that you don’t care about others, just yourself. You are jeopardizing the lives of other people. During times of public health emergencies, temporary measures to help counteract the spread of the pandemic are expected and should be voluntarily followed. Stop being so selfish and impatient; better times are ahead and will arrive sooner if the public (including you) will comply with these reasonable safety requests.

        1. Bruce, here’s Flu and Pneumonia (P&I) deaths from 2018 aggregated with CV-19 deaths from 2020.
 <- this is perspective.

          Why don't we mask up and lock up every year? – because we've been selfish? Is the WA State Legislature not making a mandatory mask law out of selfish reasons?

        2. I’m also reading that only about 20 people world-wide have been infected with CV-19 twice. It looks like if you’ve tested positive, you are mathematically/medically immune, more immune than children are, more immune than you would be by getting a Trump Warp Speed vaccine (one of which is 94% effective). This doesn’t seem selfish.

      2. Do you have a friend or family member with Covid? No? Well they will with your attitude. Mask up. I suppose you also support not having to stop at a red light or stop sign. How would you like to cope with those medical bills. Oh, you would probably be the type that sues because someone else was careless and caused you medical and car repair bills.
        Get the picture?
        Wear a mask and don’t be part of the problem!!!

      3. If wearing a mask prevents only one person from getting Covid, then why wouldn’t you? Does it work perfectly, no. But I really struggle with all the verbiage and your pride in statements that you won’t wear one. Don’t then. The public health departments have always had the power to limit our liberties for the public good. My family was quarantined by public health when my brother had an infectious illness when I was little. Christmas and Thanksgiving didn’t happen that year. Don’t recall it being a political thing. It just was. But if you will not wear a mask, then just don’t. But your constant posting is old. Personally, if there is any chance a mask will help out any one i am in contact with, well, on goes the dang mask. I truly want Darrol to feel free to do his public things and Ron and his wife to get back to enjoying walks and church ( we disagree a lot but I do respect them both.). It ain’t about the ticket. It is about just trying and maybe it can help. Or perhaps set up your own blog, freedom of speech and all that.

        1. The policy experts determined that Ron’s church attendance is a risk that shouldn’t be taken, regardless if he wears a mask or not. If not going to church would prevent one person from getting covid, then why wouldn’t he not go to church?

      4. Missed my points, but that seems to be the point of your postings. Masks may help us out until there is a vaccine. Then Ron and Darrol can do as they please again. Pubic Health has always been able to restrict us, constantly saying you won’t wear a mask well, who cares? You can stay in the 5% who don’t. Caring about anyone else apparently not your long suite. Except when you want to wear a side arm to Starbucks to “protect us all”.

        1. I feel like I’m speaking for most people who live in Edmonds in this comment… people wear masks more because they are afraid of confrontations. I highly doubt people sitting in Salt and Iron eating feel more safe if a mask is worn just between the door and the table. I am just not afraid of confrontations, and it’s a character flaw.

  5. We’ve been told that only 5 people are allowed to meet for
    Thanksgiving, but 30 for a funeral. With this, I announce that we will
    be holding a funeral for our pet turkey that will pass away on Nov. 26.
    Refreshments provided.

    In lieu of flowers please bring a side or dessert.

      1. Ron: Sadly not true (or should I say enforceable). My mother passed away last month, and they had a socially distanced funeral for her back in Michigan (I attended via livestream from here). I was surprised that a reception was being allowed at a separate venue. I know if a few post-funeral receptions that happened here in WA State as well.

  6. When you sign a statement as “My Edmonds News” please identify yourself as you ask readers to do. Otherwise we don’t know if it is the publisher, editor, secretary or whoever that has no time to correct the failings of your readers. Polite correction is fine but the arrogance of “I don’t have Time” is unworthy of an otherwise excellent publication.

    1. Apologies David –I am the only one moderating this forum and when you see My Edmonds News is it indeed me. I often do sign my name but sometimes forget. I will try to remember to do that.
      — Teresa

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