Im cheering on the protests. I think they should get louder and stronger, the owner of Eltana says.
"I'm cheering on the protests. I think they should get louder and stronger," the owner of Eltana says. Courtesy of Eltana

It’s been a rough time for everyone in Capitol Hill, whether you’re protesting or getting groceries or you just want to sleep but the helicopter WON’T SHUT UP. But it’s been particularly rough for local business owners, who for the last week have been hit with the double-punch of a pandemic, then barricades and tear gas.

Eltana Bagels has had a particularly rough time, located directly across 12th Avenue from the police station — now renamed the "people’s station." How do you run a business when you’re fenced in by cops in riot gear? Shop owner Stephen Brown’s been making the best of a super weird situation.

“On a typical weekday we get about 200 people,” Stephen says. With the pandemic, they were getting 100; after the barricades went up they were getting 50. The only way for customers to access the shop was to walk through a double set of gates, explain to police that they just wanted to buy a bagel, and then timidly creep through what looked like a war zone.

But that’s all changed now. Looking out the front window, Stephen described people strolling casually past tents and makeshift gardens. Capitol Hill is quiet for the first time in days, and the bagel shop is bustling — not just with customers, but with staff preparing to make deliveries.

When the quarantine began, it was unclear how Eltana’s business would be affected. But then a longtime customer called from Issaquah, asking if they could make some deliveries. She sent a spreadsheet with nearly 200 orders from neighbors, and suddenly Eltana was in the bagel-delivery business.

That’s relieved a lot of the recent economic anxiety, which was only worsened by questions about just how much would be covered by insurance. Not many businesses have insurance that covers a pandemic; others might have coverage for civil unrest, but how do you determine which losses can be attributed to which cause?

It’s impossible to say what tomorrow will hold, but for now Stephen expects to maintain regular business hours. (Except on Friday, when everyone will get the day off, with pay, so they can go protest.)

“It’s pretty hard to run a business when your front door is surrounded by four gates in all directions,” Stephen says. But he adds that he didn’t mind the disruption of the last week. "I'm cheering on the protests. I think they should get louder and stronger and almost impossible to ignore,” he says. “If that means we can’t operate, then so be it.”