There was a time when I thought Lassi & Spice would open up this summer. May? June? For sure by early July. I mean, it was just a matter of finding the right spot, signing a lease and getting the place constructed, right? Nothing too complicated. Shouldn’t take long. Totally within my control. Slam dunk!
Now, when people ask me how it’s going and when I’m going to open, I answer optimistically with, “Maybe around Thanksgiving?” a hopeful millennial question mark at the end of all responses. “You know, if all goes well….?” Because it’s not within my control. Not at all. My timeline completely revolves around PERMITS.
Yes, nod along knowingly all ye who already knew what I did not. Signed leases and construction schedules are very well indeed, but permits actually drive the timeline, and mine are currently in the hands of the city. This city. Seattle. In the midst of a major construction boom and breakneck growth, city offices are completely overwhelmed. They implemented a massive software upgrade that caused total mayhem (see the Seattle Times article here). But what's this got to do with your future lassis and chai, you ask? Here’s a little overview of my process to date:
- End of May: I finally sign the lease. Thank you for feigning surprise when I acknowledge this also took a little longer than I'd thought
- 1 day later my architect submits an intake date request to the City. The intake date request is merely a request to email the city your plans. Generally getting an intake date takes 8 weeks! Yes, the City says "you cannot email me now, but you may email me in 8 weeks, at which point I will start to look at your plans." The architect hopes they’ll let them use an existing slot they've been holding in June and fortunately the City allows it. A win!
- June 7th: Construction Plans filed on their intake date. Milestone! These plans aren't hugely detailed, but they do show the city the basic layout of the space, location of the utilities, and assure them everything will be ADA compliant.
- Month of June………..
- Month of July …………...
- …………………and Aug 6th is here - 8 weeks later - and we're still holding. Will this be the week they give us preliminary comments? Is it still realistic they’ll issue final approval around Labor Day? (a mere 12 weeks after I initially filed?). Is that too much to ask? I’m back to my hopeful questions.
In case you’re wondering, until the city issues my final permits, I can’t start any construction. This is not Miami, people. So construction has to wait until plans are issued and the construction drawings are finalized to start. At this point, that may be mid-September. From there, we’re thinking 8 weeks of construction, then 2 weeks of barista training. Then BOOM! It's Thanksgiving! Turkey Day, how’d you creep up on me like that?
Now I will say that things have hardly come to a stand still while we wait out the city. Strata is working on the interior design for the space. I’ve signed up an awesome muralist to do a large wall piece. I've found a source for Indian coffee beans. I’ve awarded the construction to a great GC, Choice General Contracting. I continue to refine all my operational plans. Last month my Health Permit filing was submitted and the back-and-forth with the Health Department underway, a parallel process as we hold for the construction permit.
And yes, like you I also long for a boozy lassi, and I know they would be delicious. But at this point, but I’m not quite ready to undertake that permit filing with the Liquor Control Board. Maybe down the road. And fortunately/unfortunately, the sidewalk in front of the café is too narrow for outdoor seating, or I’d be filing for a permit with the Seattle Department of Transportation. All this to say, it could be worse. And now whenever you wonder why that new restaurant has had that vague “coming soon” sign in the window for so long, now you have a few theories about who might be holding up their permits.
For now, I hum Tom Petty and remember my sister’s wise analogy that it’s a little like being pregnant. You wait, you plan, you know it’s going to get crazy soon enough. So you stop stressing about what you can’t control, take a walk, eat some ice cream. Not bad advice at all! XOXO Susannah