It’s Christmas Time in the City

‘City sidewalks, busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style’

Silver Bells, composed by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans in 1950

This does not describe Christmas 2020 in downtown Seattle. The sidewalks aren’t busy and there isn’t much holiday style to be seen.

We took a trip downtown a week before Christmas.  Downtown Seattle is usually a sight to behold over the holidays.  The streets are bustling and decorations are everywhere.  The hotels are busy, as are the restaurants.  Downtown is a popular destination for locals and out of towners alike.

It is pretty quiet this year.  There were maybe 4 or so people on each block.  Many of the stores have closed permanently.  There is no indoor dining so the restaurants are dark.  And the hotels look pretty quiet.  The Pike Place Market had about 40% of their usual vendors and there were NO crowds on what should have been one of their busiest shopping days.

According to the Downtown Seattle Association, this ‘horrible year’ has killed off 155 businesses in the downtown core alone – 82 restaurants, 48 retail storefronts and 25 other businesses have closed permanently. This doesn’t count the plywood planked shops that are hunkered down for the duration (from a Danny Westneat article in the Seattle Times).

Predictions are that it may get worse. 

My prediction is that there is no ticket back to 2019. Who knows what will emerge in the post pandemic times?  I don’t see a back to the future scenario. 

A lot of the activity in downtown Seattle is driven by workers based there.  They grab lunch in the restaurants, shop at the stores and go out for happy hour after work. There is a lot of real estate downtown occupied by businesses and their employees. Amazon and others have implemented work from home policies on a more or less permanent basis. I think most businesses have and are going to continue to shrink their footprints for the foreseeable future. 

Without workers thronging the streets, downtown is going to have a tough time recovering.  Downtown has reinvented itself a number of times and I am sure it will again.  I will be curious to see what 2021 will bring to downtown Seattle and what future Christmases will be like in the city.

See you on Friday,


BTW, Dege went skiing on her birthday….as predicted!


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