Looks like COVID has nixed a major culinary venture that was about to hit Seattle. China Live — a sprawling San Francisco-based Chinese food hall and market — was supposed to open a new outpost in downtown Seattle, near the Amazon Spheres. But after delaying the opening until 2022, co-founder George Chen now says the venture is off completely, mostly due to uncertainty over how the pandemic will continue to affect the downtown core.
“We’re not going to do Seattle,” says Chen in an upcoming episode of Eater’s Digest, noting that China Live had signed a lease in Amazon’s AWS building a year and half ago, before COVID hit the area. “It’s not the right concept and the right location, because Amazon, like any big secret company, they’re not going to tell you whether their employees are going to be able to work remotely or not.” He adds that it was a mutual decision with Amazon to end the lease and the company was accommodating over the past year.
China Live’s initial plans — which had been announced in February 2020 — was to create full-service restaurants, bars, and shops in a 13,000 square-foot space at 2107 Westlake Avenue in 2021. Even during the early days of the pandemic, Chen and his team tried to stay optimistic about continuing the project by delaying it a year. Some of the adjusted concepts at the time included areas where customers could order the food off tablets or cell phones, less person-to-person contact, more retail opportunities, and seating cordoned off into pods. In San Francisco, sales struggled during peak outbreaks in California, although the food hall made adjustments with more takeout to stay afloat.
For Seattle’s downtown diners, the news is disappointing, but not entirely unexpected. Though Amazon has signaled that it would attempt to bring back most of its office workers by the fall, nothing is quite set in stone and it’s likely tough to place a pricey bet on such uncertainty. Chen says China Live is looking at New York and Chicago for possible expansion plans, instead.