One Seattle classic is getting a big funding boost. On May 13, it was officially announced that Maneki — the beloved 117-year-old Japanese restaurant in Japantown — will be among the 25 places in the U.S. receiving a $40,000 grant from a program called Backing Historic Small Restaurants.
The grant is part of an effort from American Express and the Washington, DC-based National Trust for Historic Preservation, which will distribute $1 million total spread out to several “culturally significant” independent restaurants to help mitigate the impacts from COVID. An advisory committee helping select the grantees included celebrated JuneBaby and Salare chef Edouardo Jordan, and there was a public vote to determine the final list.
Since early in the pandemic, Maneki, whose history dates back to 1904, has shown a great deal of ingenuity and resilience. For the first time ever, the restaurant created an online ordering system and offered takeout. In July, it launched a GoFundMe to help raise some much-needed cash, as it struggled to generate enough business to stay afloat and keep staff onboard. Maneki also received a loan from the federal Payroll Protection Program in 2020, in addition to a small grant from the city of Seattle and help from Puget Sound Energy on a new HVAC system, but 14 months of uncertainty has taken its toll.
“The challenge with ‘package for delivery’ is we miss out on our traditional Japanese plating and presentation fanfare,” the restaurant’s owner and longtime caretaker Jean Nakayama told Eater Seattle when Maneki launched the GoFundMe. “Not knowing when we will be able to resume operations has been a planning roller coaster.”
Currently, Maneki is still open for takeout only, even with the prospect of a full reopening happening soon in Washington by the summer. In addition to assisting with other upgrades, the funds from the new grant will go towards improving the exterior space and developing the restaurant’s online presence.
Correction: This article originally stated that Maneki was located in the International District, but it is more accurate to say it is in Japantown, a neighborhood within the Chinatown International District. All such references have been changed.