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In wake of May Day mayhem, businesses assess damage

Business owners are assessing the damage after some anti-capitalist protesters broke windows in Seattle last night. Only a handful sustained property damage, but many more businesses were affected financially.

Don Stevens owns Bill’s Off Broadway, a restaurant and bar in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. That’s the area where the anti-capitalist march started before heading downtown and turning into a violent standoff with police.

By 8:30 pm, when things were quiet outside his restaurant, Stevens headed home. A half hour later, his bartender called.

"She was pretty frantic," Stevens said. 

The protesters had headed back up Capitol Hill, followed by the police. Someone bashed in one of his restaurant’s windows, and the street was overrun with chaos. Stevens says his bartender was very upset and didn’t know what to do.

"They’re accustomed to dealing with a number of elements when you run a bar. That’s not one of them," Stevens said. "There is no training or preparation for somebody to smash your windows and have a crowd of people outside yelling and screaming, and fighting with the police, and tear gas canisters go off. I mean, how do you possibly prepare for that?"

Luckily, no one inside got hurt. Stevens says he doesn’t think his restaurant was targeted, because if that had been the case, people could have done a lot more damage. He says he’s not even mad anymore, just puzzled.

'I don't get it'

"I guess I’m disappointed in the cause. What do they gain by it?" Stevens said. "What were they trying to communicate? I don’t get it."

Earlier that evening, police tried to control a rowdy band of protesters around Westlake Center downtown.

Jody Senyohl, a manager at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro on Fourth Avenue, wasn’t at the restaurant. He watched on TV as police faced off with angry protesters and deployed pepper spray and flash-bang grenades. Senyohl decided to close the restaurant early, and send everyone home. That meant lost business on top of a day that had already been slow because people were spooked.

Lost sales

"We definitely lost thousands in sales," Senyohl said. "When there’s protests downtown, a lot of people steer away from coming to downtown businesses. It’s an unfortunate effect."

Around the corner at Alexandra's, a clothing consignment shop, manager Renee Smrstik said she supported the immigration and workers' rights rally. But she expressed frustration with the anti-capitalist marchers.

"These people who go from town to town to town, kicking up trouble, that's what gets me fired up," Smrstik said. "Because it's all for nothing and they're not helping anybody. And the people that they're hurting are people who are laborers who are working at these places and have to clean up the mess and have to be afraid."

At Oliver’s Lounge across the street from Alexandra's, a man was repairing a broken windowpane. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.