COVID-19 threatens local business

206 Burger Company’s struggle for survival in wake of pandemic

Andrew Stez, Features Editor

Typically bustling with students from Seattle Pacific University and locals who live in the area, Nickerson Street now feels like a ghost town. 

Sanju Shrestha, owner of 206 Burger Company, described in a phone call how the area is left practically abandoned as gyms and the other similar businesses located near his restaurant were forced to close due to Gov. Inslee’s orders in mid-March.

To make matters worse, his restaurant only opened its Nickerson location Jan. 1, putting it in a tough predicament as a new establishment.

As one of the few businesses in the area still open, the restaurant is struggling.

“I never thought about this kind of situation so I have learned a lot and I have come to learn a lot about this business. Never in my life did I think this would be happening,” Shrestha said.

COVID-19 has put 206 Burger Company, like many businesses across the country, in a serious state of frenzy at a time where he hoped his Nickerson location, which is his third in Seattle, would help gain momentum. 

He opened this location near the university to target SPU students, but due to the pandemic remaining students are not going out as frequently as they typically would.

“My reason for coming to that location was the SPU students. My other locations are near high schools. So, when I first signed that lease, SPU and the university were a deciding factor,” Shrestha said.

Due to the lack of students in the area he described the striking decrease in business. 

“My business is down, I would say, 60-70% so at the start of January, it was like I had three employees … now there is only one owner working,” Shrestha said. 

the interior of a restaurant
Blake Dahlin
206 Burger Company recently opeend a new location on Nickerson St, but with the SPU’s on-campus population, combined with the effects of COVID-19, business has dropped by more than 60%.

Despite still offering takeout at two of his locations, Shrestha was forced to lay off employees due to the significant drop in revenue. 

Employees have been contacting him to try to get assistance, but he explained how his situation prevents him from doing so. 

“I keep on getting emails from my employees looking for some help and looking for some job, but if there is nothing for me, how can I help them? It’s a very difficult situation for me. I see their suffering but I am also suffering,” he said. 

To make matters worse for his company, his Nickerson location did not qualify for any federal aid since it has only been open for a few months. This puts Shrestha in a vulnerable spot as funds dry up. This also makes the future of his business uncertain. 

Originally planning to open a bar next to the restaurant, he is now left with the rent for an empty space. He sees no reason to use this as a bar anymore due to the current uncertainty and tremendous cost of renovations.

Shrestha still has the lease for the bar, and he has been trying to renegotiate with landlords. He fears if the COVID-19 restrictions do not end in two months it could lead to further trouble for his business. 

He must also pay the rent for April, May and June over the next few years through a payment plan. This means that for years he will be paying a higher rent due to this new plan. 

After July, there is still a lot of uncertainty as to whether Shrestha can extend his payment plan to cover rent in the foreseeable future. If he has to pay the full rent starting in July, it could lead to catastrophe for his firm. 

a neon sign with the words "burgers, fries, shakes."
Blake Dahlin
The neon signs in the window of 206 Burger Company remain lit, as the business continues to operate during stay-at-home orders.

“Next year, I’ll be paying a lot more rent than my normal rent. That is helping me a little bit for now to survive but, eventually, after July, if I have to pay the full rent for the whole store, I’ll be out of business in like two months.” 

The fate of his business is dependent entirely on the next few months and whether he will be able to negotiate with his landlords who, themselves, are having to pay mortgages and are in the process of selling the property. 

He voiced concern for the future and he is not optimistic that consumers are ready to support local businesses by going out into their community. 

That being said, despite all the obstacles in his way, his concern lies more in the survival of small stores, as he knows the struggle all too well. 

“I’m thinking about mom-and-pop shops. They don’t have accounting, they don’t know what to do … If they don’t get any help I don’t see how they can survive this,” Shrestha said. 

206 Burger Company is currently offering takeout at it’s Nickerson location from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. The restaurant also offers all SPU students a 10-15% discount.