SEATTLE - On the same day Seattle City Council voted to defund Seattle Police, one couple who owns a downtown business got ready to close for good.
Andrea and Joe Raetzer packed up items inside their tea shop on Monday. Once thriving, they are now closing down Steepologie Teas on 4th Ave in Seattle.
“It is with a heavy heart we are leaving this location,” Joe said.
Although the pandemic is causing unprecedented challenges for Steepologie Teas, the couple said that is not the reason they are shutting down their downtown branch.
“What city council has done has been more detrimental to our business than a global pandemic, by far, absolutely,” said Joe.
The business owners said the city council’s plan to defund police means the end of the road for their flagship store.
“There is only so many times you can hire people and lay them off because they don’t want to be in this location, they already didn’t feel safe pre-COVID, pre-riots,” Andrea said.
The couple said customers are also increasingly avoiding coming to the 4th Ave shop as opposed to other locations and that simply, public safety killed their business.
Q13 News first met Andrea in January when she pleaded for more police presence after experiencing an uptick in crime such as open drug deals, harassment, and random assaults.
“I don’t know if SPD is going to be here quickly that scares me because in the light of day our daughter was fully assaulted in this store,” said Andrea.
If you drive around parts of downtown Seattle now, there is an air of desperation, with businesses boarded up storefronts on many streets and more homeless encampments.
“Driving through Pioneer Square is shocking now, over the past month there has been a complete decline,” Andrea said of businesses.
Much of the 'ghost town' effect is due to the pandemic, but the couple said in the last two months, the dangers and lawlessness have escalated with the lack of proper response from city leaders.
“We don’t even respect each other as human beings we certainly don’t respect SPD,” Andrea said.
The business owners said they support police reform and said protesting has always been weaved into the culture of Seattle and they welcome it.
“Our ability to express ourselves and protest what we believe in now has completely been overtaken by violence and rioting and complete lack of respect for each other,” Andrea said.
Andrea said as a minority owning a business in downtown Seattle was always a dream come true for her.
“I’m a Hispanic female, my mother wasn’t even born in this country and I am proud to be a business owner in the city of Seattle,” Andrea said.
Three years ago that pride was booming when they first opened the store.
Now they said it's time to let go.
“When you come to downtown Seattle during a time like this and you can’t see a single officer in the street corner, that is scary,” Andrea said.