Beloved Chinatown-International District restaurant Phnom Penh Noodle House planned to hold its grand opening in March, a celebratory culmination of two years of effort toward reopening. But the Cambodian restaurant — which has a nearly 30-year history in Seattle — found its plans halted due to the statewide mandate that restaurants close their dining rooms. It tried to sell food through takeout and delivery only, but decided to halt that effort on March 25.
Diane Le, who runs the business with her two sisters, Dawn and Darlene Ung, made the decision with public health and the safety of their family in mind. “We must do our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect each other,” read a statement on the restaurant’s website. “Darlene is 7 months pregnant and our father, Sam just celebrated his 65th birthday. They have been at the restaurant every day since soft opening on the 8th. We must limit their exposure.”
The sisters are hoping the restaurant can start in-house dining in April, but the exact timeline will depend on how things develop with the novel coronavirus outbreak and when the state-mandated restrictions on in-house dining are lifted. Local officials said the order is in effect through March 31, yet left open the possibility that it could be extended further.
It’s one more bump in a long road for the family, which has faced plenty of challenges recently.
Original owner Sam Ung opened Phnom Penh Noodle House in 1987, passing it on to his daughters when he retired in 2013. They carried on their father’s legacy, operating the city’s only Cambodian restaurant as a beloved community hub. But when Dawn’s son, Devin, was hit by a car in the fall of 2017, he suffered a traumatic brain injury that impacted Dawn’s finances and ability to manage the restaurant. Phnom Penh Noodle House closed as a result, in May 2018.
Over the past two years, the sisters have worked to raise money to build out a restaurant in a new space at 913 S. Jackson Street. They raised funds through an Indiegogo campaign and pop-ups and fundraising events, plus received a $140,000 grant from the City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development. Now, the brand new restaurant must sit empty.
But Diane says they’ll press on, undeterred.
“We stick together as a team and we formulate a plan,” she says. “We’ve just got to go with the flow. Like any small business, we’re trying to stay afloat and take things day by day.”
UPDATED: March 26, 2020, 12:46 p.m.: This post has been updated with information that the restaurant is now completely closed temporarily.