by Shannon Bush
With online classes throughout spring quarter, social distancing, and the cancellation of events, conferences, concerts, festivals—gatherings, in short—life during COVID-19 ain’t no party. Although taxing, these restrictions are understandable as they are effective weapons in our limited arsenal to reduce the spread of this virus. While we find ourselves accepting limits on freedom of movement and association that would have seemed intolerable three weeks ago, what we should not accept is the spike in xenophobia accompanying the spike in cases. Whether from the overt racism modeled by some at the national level or the implicit bias too easily denied or disregarded by a larger share of the population, the dangers posed by the novel coronavirus are not limited to its direct physiological effects.
Restaurants across Seattle have been hit hard by the prohibition against dining on the premises. However, the steep decline in business has been felt more keenly in the International District than in many other neighborhoods. The motivation isn’t always overt discrimination. In the early stages of the state’s implementation of increasingly restrictive health guidelines—before the stay-at-home order this week—self-identifying progressive Seattleites explained they were only avoiding the ID because it was so crowded they didn’t feel comfortable going. Belltown or the Pike-Pine corridor might not trigger the same worry.
Even before the stay-at-home order, the ID was eerily quiet last Saturday. I had planned to walk through the main core, unobtrusively making notes about which restaurants were still doing take- out and delivery business to generate a list for readers’ reference. At the first store I came to that was still open for business, Seattle Best Tea, I ran into owner Lydia Lin as she hurried out to make a delivery. She stopped to tell me about the neighboring establishments that were still open (not many on her block between 5th and 6th on S. King Street), expressed concern that I wasn’t protecting myself with PPE, and invited me in for a boba tea. When I went back to see her and her associate, Chris, at the end of my walk, she refused to let me pay for the perfectly sweetened Jasmine milk tea she prepared, then insisted I take some plastic gloves from her supply in case I needed to shake anyone’s hand.
Owners of the small businesses, including tea shops, bakeries, and restaurants, in the International District are all deserving of a virtual handshake or high-five from us. Many have been in business for decades and are facing the prospect of closure for the first time. Please continue to support them with your carry-out business during the crisis. Check out our list of those offering take out and/or delivery service and, each Friday, check out our new feature recommending international fare and film for a fabulous Friday night-in.
We’d love to hear about your faves as well! Email and tell us your restaurant and/or film recommendations (the latter from or about Southeast Asia, please). You may see your entry in a future edition of SEAxSEA.