Jerk Shack, a Caribbean spot that owner Trey Lamont says was the only fully Black-owned restaurant in downtown Seattle, is now officially closed for good after Lamont and the landlord couldn’t come to agreeable terms, he says. The news was first reported by SEA Today on Tuesday, November 7.
Jerk Shack, which opened in 2018, shut its doors this summer while Lamont focused on opening the first location of what he hopes will be a fast-casual chain called Jerk Shack Kitchen. JSK has now opened in the Central District’s Midtown Square development, but the original restaurant struggled to reopen. Among the problems Lamont cited when Eater Seattle wrote about Jerk Shack in August was difficulty hiring staff during a labor shortage, lingering effects from the pandemic lockdowns, and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund denying his grant application. He started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Jerk Shack, but in three months brought in less than $6,000 of his $100,000 goal.
The real barrier to reopening, Lamont tells Eater Seattle, was the landlord. Jerk Shack had been renting the Belltown space on a month-to-month basis since the beginning of the pandemic, and Lamont was hoping to lock in a multiple-year lease agreement before reopening. The landlord only offered a 13-month lease, however, and Lamont believes they plan to redevelop the one-story building in the near future.
The landlords “weren’t up front with us,” Lamont complains, saying that “they made us jump through so many hoops” during the negotiation process only to offer what he regards as an unacceptably short lease term.
Lamont isn’t sure who actually owns the building and says all his communications have been with the property management firm Ewing and Clark. Eater Seattle reached out to Ewing and Clark for comment but has not heard back.
Lamont still plans to open a restaurant downtown (and use the money raised through GoFundMe to do so), but it will be a Jerk Shack Kitchen location rather than a sit-down-style place like the original Jerk Shack — Lamont hopes to get a space near the Amazon Spheres to capitalize on the tech giant’s return to office. He’s spent the summer fine-tuning Jerk Shack Kitchen and is still confident that it has the potential to become a chain with locations up and down the West Coast.
The silver lining of the closure, he says, is that “it allows us to focus on something better.”