The 100-plus degree heat in the Pacific Northwest was unlike anything the area has seen before and the affect on the restaurant industry was sweltering and stunning. As temperatures soared to unbelievably high levels for the normally temperate climate, eateries scrambled to continue service, many housed in buildings with no cooling systems or air conditioning. For many owners and staff, it felt like a double-whammy, coming off the struggles of the pandemic.
At Eden Hill in Seattle, cold water was the order of the day as temperatures rose and management made the difficult decision to close.
Other local eateries and farmers markets followed suit, unable to contend with the record temperatures that were deadly to some local residents.
"For us all the decisions we’ve made have been for the safety of our staff and team first," Melissa Miranda, chef and owner of Musang told TODAY Food. The popular Filipinx-inspired eatery known for its inspired dishes and craft cocktails was shuttered for three days due to the intense heat. "It’s a hit financially, but the safety of our team and our guests comes first," she said. "One thing out of many that the pandemic taught us is being able to make quick decisions."
With her restaurant located in an old craftsman home in a climate that normally doesn't necessitate air conditioning, Miranda and many other restaurateurs were hit hard by the heat wave.
"We don’t have A/C as Seattle as a city isn’t retrofitted for that," she said. In preparation for the heat, she we bought extra fans. "It was 95 inside the restaurant," she said of this past weekend. "So you can imagine the kitchen was much hotter. We went through one service you could see it in the faces of our guests and my team."
As temperatures dropped and the heat relented, Musang reopened its doors.
"We’re back open, we’ve bought some portable air conditioners," said Miranda.
She said that although it was surprising weather for June, the bigger takeaway is the concern for the welfare of workers in the service industry.
"We need to value workers," she said.
Kamala Saxton, co-owner and chef at the Hawaiian fusion eatery Super Six, had a similar story. "If it’s 108° outside, our restaurant kitchen can easily be another 15 degrees hotter. We are already short staffed, I would have had our entire staff walk out (as they should) if we stayed open on Monday. Closing for the well-being of our staff was the right thing to do on the hottest day on record in Seattle," Saxton said.
At Seattle's Chengdu Taste, not even a refreshing craft cocktail or pineapple juice could cool the dining room off long enough for the popular Sichuan chain from Southern California to stay open during the hottest days of the unusual weather.
While the eatery is known for turning up the heat in its spicy and creative Sichuan dishes, no one in the restaurant was prepared for last weekend's heat wave. Service worker David Li told TODAY Food that in a way, the extreme heat was more difficult on the restaurant than the pandemic, as they were able to stay open for takeout during COVID closures.
"We are open right now," he said, ready to get back to business.
And while there were some disappointed guests who had traveled from afar after snagging a difficult to get reservation at Musang, Miranda said that most people were understanding.
"We have a great community that is in support of our decisions," she said.