Wild Mountain Cafe owner opens up about the challenges facing restaurant industry

With the restaurant industry grinding nearly to a halt in the last few weeks, many restaurant owners are seeing their livelihoods hanging in the balance as the coronavirus pandemic keeps their dining rooms closed.

Wild Mountain Cafe owner Desirae Aylesworth wrote about the heartache and the struggles as a restaurant owner right now, which was published last week on KUOW.

Aylesworth tells My Ballard she’s started a fundraiser for her employees during the stay-home mandate, which as of April 13, has raised $1,130.

Here’s Aylesworth’s letter:

To whom it may concern,

I have lived in Seattle for almost 20 years now, which seems crazy to me as I don’t feel it’s been that long. I have been a part of this community now, integrated in the service industry for the duration of those two decades. I have put blood, lots of sweat, and lately, tons of tears into this process. With the uncertainty of what’s going to happen, each day is a struggle. Don’t get me wrong, I am very lucky and thankful for the things that I have: a beautiful family, a roof over my head, and food in the fridge. But if we rewind to a year and a half ago, nobody warned me of the dangers of a pandemic when buying a restaurant.

I have worked at the Wild Mountain Café now for over 10 years–as a hostess, waitress, bartender, manager. Now I own the place. The original owner opened in 2002, and after pouring all her hard work into it for years and years, she decided to part ways to focus on the horse-boarding business she had started. She approached me about buying the business because she wanted the restaurant to be led by someone who had been here for years, someone that was a familiar face for all of the wonderful regulars. I was hesitant at first, but having always worked two jobs at the same time to maintain a feasible income for my family, often early hours to late nights and over again, I thought, ‘Sure, I can do this!’ Having just had my second child not even six months earlier, I was nervous. Could I really pull this off? Will it be enough? What will happen with my family?

I have owned the restaurant since January 2019. My husband, a cook, kept working at another restaurant until the time came where it made sense to have him come work with us. He’s been with us for about six months now. We don’t have traditional childcare (nor could we afford it) so we work opposite hours to make ends meet.

Everything was going really well until earlier this year. Now, I know I am not alone in this. Restaurants have had to close their doors—some of them permanently, some temporarily, some have laid off staff, some have had luck with the takeout/delivery and have their entire staff still pumping out burgers and fries on the daily. The harsh reality for us is my husband, myself, and my two young daughters, aged 5 and 1, are here every single day. We take turns taking the few orders we get over the phone, cooking, feeding our kids, putting them to naps in the basement, handing phone calls from vendors, banks and everything else. We will keep doing this until we can’t anymore. With our daily sales reduced to about a quarter of what they usually are, we cannot afford our staff of eight.

I have dished out a few hours here and there to the Kitchen Manager and the Front of House manager, as they are essential to this business and their longevity of employment shows dedication. But it’s heartbreaking to think I can’t afford to pay the other staff members that are not only essential to this business as well, but have families to feed themselves.

Lawmakers, mayors, even the president himself has said that help is there. I have applied to every single grant, loan, assistance fund you can think of with little to no luck. There are restrictions for where your restaurant can be located to get assistance, how many employees you can have a small business to get assistance, and frankly—we don’t fall under any of them. I keep applying anyways. And while I know I’m not alone in this, it doesn’t keep me from being afraid, terrified, of what the future holds for me, as a new business owner that has legal repercussions held over my head on a daily basis if I can’t pay rent, payroll, or keep my doors open. For my family, that has this job and this job only as a source of income.

I skipped my own payroll multiple times in the last few weeks just to be able to pay my staff. I do not qualify for unemployment, so what do I do? For now, we keep our heads up, we work hard, and we pray for a miracle, for ourselves, and for the millions of other people that are navigating life in this truly unprecedented time. We hope for relief, but we know it’s far-fetched. And so, I ask for help. I don’t really care if I can afford new shoes, a gaming system, a trip to Hawaii or anything like that. What I care about are my two daughters that have no idea we are in such a hardship. That they don’t want for the essential basics of life. I care about my hardworking employees that are out of a job right now (and for the unforeseeable future) when all they’re trying to do is put a roof over their family’s head and feed themselves. There are people out there that have it worse off than us, and I know that.

We have done our part staying open, doing curbside for those families that need a meal, donating meals to our local hospital to the people that are truly working to save lives. The support we have had from our customers and regulars has been amazing. But, it’s not enough. Still, I worry. I can’t sleep, I can’t rest until I know that we, amongst others, will be OK. We are in this together, Seattle. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I feel very alone. When do we get help?


Desirae Aylesworth

49 thoughts to “Wild Mountain Cafe owner opens up about the challenges facing restaurant industry”

  1. Your bank must be one of the banks who have decided to not offer SBA PPP loans. Ask a local community bank for a PPP loan. That is the program designed for people just like you. It is available and is currently funding. You would qualify.

  2. Thank you for sharing this, how many jobs lost and business destroyed is acceptable to save one life… 1000 is too much, this madness needs to end.

    1. And before someone chimes in that the deaths would be greater if we didn’t shutdown the economy; I have yet to hear anyone credible report what the projected WA or US deaths would have been without the distancing efforts; especially now that the virus models are much more refined than they were even a few weeks ago. We should demand and hold our leaders to report that, and US know what this cost is really preventing.

      1. I think you fundamentally misunderstand what a model is because you have seen exactly what you are asking for. Models typically work by taking the current situation as an input and then extrapolating into the future. The early, less refined, models were based on the input of a world that didn’t have social distancing. Then as social distancing went into place and the disease was slowed the inputs into the models changed to reflect reality and we get the current model as output.

        1. Actually, I’m a disease modeler… prior.. post hoc… blah; blah; blah. Back to the facts….

          The modelers modeling this outbreak, can run simulations (Monte Carlo; that’s my modeler secret knock so you know what I’m really talking about) showing what effect social distancing has on the total deaths, both regionally, nationally and internationally. Both, in the past, i.e. what would have happened if distancing measures had not been in place, and in the future. People NEED to know, what the actual effect of this social distancing is… it’s being kept hush hush for some reason.

          Back to this post…

          It would be a shame if it turns out all these distancing efforts, jobs lost, lives impacted were an overreaction. Please show me I’m wrong by pointing to a credible source that says what the total deaths would be in the US or WA without distancing measures.

          1. Umm, facts are tough things for liberals. Most specialize in feelings and aren’t all that interested in facts, unless of course they fit their agendas.

          2. It would be a shame if it turns out all these distancing efforts, jobs lost, lives impacted were an overreaction. Please show me I’m wrong by pointing to a credible source that says what the total deaths would be in the US or WA without distancing measures.

            You don’t get to go on a long rant on how you are positive everyone is wrong, and then without providing ANY evidence or facts, you then put the earnest on everyone else to prove themselves right instead, when there’s multitude of data, graphs, studies, etc. that directly contradict your claims

            So please, by all means Mr. Disease Modeler, show us your disease model that refutes the current models, the worst case models and shows how we would have been so better off not taking any precautions.

          3. He should show us his models from January and February that prove he was right then.

          4. I saw a bunch of typing but I missed the part where there was a number of people that would have died without social distancing. Please reply with a number….

          5. Why aren’t the original epidemiologists that created those first models credible?

            If it is an overreaction what would you have done instead with that same information at the beginning of this? You keep harping about the ratio of jobs to deaths, with perfect knowledge and the ability to enact it what would have been the minimum acceptable ratio for you?

          6. i was raised by Humans they taught me it’s better to be safe than sorry.

            does that tinfoil hat you wear ever itch??

          7. I’ll just leave this here.

            Facts matter, even if social distancing reduced the COVID death rate 10-fold, it’s insignificant over the background death rate. Again, at what economic cost do we do this… how many jobs lost per life saved?

            King County Outbreak Summary Updated 4/13/20
            Age group Death Rate per 100k resident
            0-9 0.0
            10-19 0.0
            20-29 0.5
            30-39 0.0
            40-49 2.0
            50-59 5.2
            60-69 14.1
            70-79 65.5
            80+ 254.6

            All Cause Mortality USA 2018
            Age group Death Rate per 100k
            15-24 70.2
            25-34 128.8
            35-44 194.7
            45-54 395.9
            55-64 886.7
            65-74 1783.3
            75-84 4386.1
            85+ 13450.7

          8. Ok Mr. “But the Economy!!!”, you’ve made it clear you are willing to sacrifice other people’s lives for “the economy”. At what point do you draw the line? What’s your value of a human life? 10,000 human lives? 100,000 human lives? If it’s a family member or friend that now has an increased chance of dying, does your value of a human life change?

            At some point, with no shelter in place, so many people would be sick or dying that the economy would collapse in an unplanned manner that would have more far reaching damage than can ever be imagined by shelter in place scenarios. Removing shelter in place too early would be absolutely idiotic at this point and is only being pushed by incompetent politicians who are now trying to seem tough after ignoring early advice and completely botching their response.

            Also, the King County numbers are low because we reacted early and people have been mostly compliant with suggestions ad restrictions allowing the medical field to properly react to cases. Various people at the federal level (Dr. Fauci/Dr. Birx) have called out Washington State as the best example of a response.

            In fact, the National Guard set up a field hospital at CenturyLink Field only to tear it down and redeploy in another state because our state has done so well. We are not out of the woods yet, but your King County numbers show that what we are doing is working.

            Can you show me your model that takes into account not shutting down the economy? Not only would the hospitals be utterly overwhelmed so that COVID patients are dying, but people in need of non-COVID medical attention would have their lives risked as well.

            The consensus among people well versed in infectious disease modelling is that the continued success of shelter in place will allow for the economy to slowly open back up, provided it’s done in a systematic way. Society as a whole will not return to normal until either a vaccine or herd immunity is realized. Herd immunity for COVID has not been successful where attempted.

          9. Poor communities suffer far higher death rates than wealthy ones during economic declines. So in effect by continuing the shutdown for longer than necessary we are sacrificing poor people’s lives to protect wealthy people from getting sick.
            The biggest killer in the world is negative GDP growth. Just look at any third world country and compare death rates to any western country.

          10. We’ve been (stupidly) giving the wealthy tax cuts for 50 years with the promise that it will all “trickle” down. Maybe it’s about time for them to finally do so or set the top income bracket back to 80%+ it was after the Great Depression.

            The only reason poor people’s live will be lost due to negative GDP growth is if we as a country let it happen; we are NOT a third world country, despite the attempts of some. Far more poor people’s lives will be lost if we let COVID run unchecked..

          11. “Far more poor people’s lives will be lost if we let COVID run unchecked..”
            who is advocating letting it run unchecked”?

            The new data shows that the top 1 percent of earners (with incomes over $515,371) paid nearly 39 percent of all income taxes, up slightly from the previous tax year’s 37 percent share. The amount of taxes paid in this percentile is nearly twice as much their adjusted gross income (AGI) load.

            the poor less then 5%

            sorry dude 2+2 is still 4

          12. Exactly, folks will be singing a different tune after 3 plus months of 30% hit on GDP, but what do I know, just one man’s opinion. All this emotionally driven reactionism is going get real old real quick when people start loosing their houses and there’s no food on the table.

          13. And we’re only seeing the beginning of layoffs… imagine 15% unemployment, including the civil sector.

          14. Been 24 hours… where the witty art school response one this one…. maybe I lost you on civil sector layoffs

          15. “Poor communities suffer far higher death rates than wealthy ones during economic declines.”

            If your obese your health will be in jeopardy. Be it high BP, Cancer or any other health factors. The Dr.s have said this from the git go .
            Those with “underlying factors” will be more likely to die.”The epidemic of obesity has become pandemic, defined as an epidemic occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population.Sep 17, 2012″It has nothing to do with “economic decline” which has been going on for a few months not decades, get real. It maybe time to realize your actions have consequences.

          16. I agree, dropping out of school, having several out of wedlock is not prone to positive outcomes.

    2. It’s as simple as Jobs can be replaced, lives cannot.

      If you’re so into this theory, go ahead and sacrifice your own life for the economy jobs, after all you seem to be a worthless member of society.

      1. Go ahead and tell this to the family loosing their business, laying off all their employees, missing their rent and mortgages. What do you think will happen when the eviction moratorium ends… those debts will just disappear?

        1. I don’t need to tell that to this family, read the article, they are completely aware and are supporting the closures.

          Again, if you are so into dying for the economy, go ahead and end your life now, but the rest of us aren’t quite as stupid as you an know we don’t need to unnecessarily sacrifice additional lives for capitalism.

          1. Hahah, stupid is being worried Covid will kill you, look at the numbers from king county public health, at all age groups its like less than 1% of the all cause death rate. That is unless you’re 85+ Go ahead keep living in fear.

          2. I’m not worried it’ll kill me, I worry it could kill others who are more at risk. And unlike you, most of us are not dumb and self-centered enough to put more people’s lives at risk than needed, just to save a few jobs right now.

            Again, by all means go die for the economy if that’s so important to you, it’ll just mean more jobs for the rest of us after this is all over.

          3. “Just a few jobs,” another weekly job report in, another 5.2 million jobs lost last week, bringing the 4 week total to 22 million jobs lost nation wide, your dreaming if you think things will be instantly back to normal. Think Great Depression.

          4. Also, you do realize this shutdown is further widening the divide between the have and the have nots… the 20% of the population that’s able to work from home, keep up with their bills with unimpeded income will come out of the way ahead of the 80% of the population stuck in limbo right now. Do you really think the government is going to bail everyone out, the SBA fund just ran out of money already. Who’s side are you on?

          5. “Who’s side are you on?”

            Well certainly not on your side, wanting people to die to save the economy.

            I’m also certainly not on the side of Corporate America wanting their workers to sacrifice their lives just to make CEOs and shareholders more profits, while they continue lower our wages despite the fact that we are the ones who actually do the work and put our lives at risk. Sounds like you are on their side? And since you are on their side, you will also be comforted knowing that the economy is doing just fine because the stock market is up everyday.

            Again, by all means go die for the economy if that’s so important to you.

  3. Gee that’s kind of sad. Not as sad as dying though, thats REAL sad. Your worrying about being OK, guess what you ARE OK. You have your health, family and a roof over your head. Your restaurant and life’s dream may not come back. Got a plan B, you should right? How could you feel “very alone” when there are millions in the same position? Sadly, life is not fair, never was, never will be. Looks like you have a lovely family.

    1. Suicide and drug OD”s kill way more than this virus thing. Are we ending all the heroin coming up I-5? Are we closing all pharmacies? Did we shutter the state for just these 2 causes of death, and why not? Is not being able to buy paint or dirt really going to do a thing, but help a petty tyrant gain power? Ask the governor of Michigan. Do YOU ever speed on the freeway? Always do what you’re told?

    2. Got a plan B, you should right?

      Yes, because everyone should have a plan that fully covers the possibility of a multi-year pandemic where unemployment is sky high and supply lines run thin.


      1. your delusional. who said this… “everyone should have a plan that fully covers the possibility of a multi-year pandemic “. If a Plan B is news to you, good luck.

          1. Sorry, didn’t realize there was a rational thought in your comment, let alone a question that needs answering. Your post in a nutshell was:

            1. Sucks to suck.
            2. Could be worse, you could be dead..
            3. You DO have a Plan B for this impossible scenario that no one in their right mind could dream up, right?
            4. There’s millions of others like you, so you have no right to feel afraid and alone.
            5. BTW you have a lovely family!

            So what’s the question I’m supposed to be answering?

  4. @ Cory & Kate Bergman (Geeky Swedes) love this blog but honestly the comments section here is one of the most toxic places on the internet. Any chance you could add the ability for users to hide the comment section by default?

    1. Uh, ever been to 4chan or Reddit? This is like Mother Goose. But I hear you and take heart, the deplorables on here are very likely just one or two people, sock puppeting their nuts off.

  5. Looking forward to coming back for breakfast when this is all over! Hang in there… really appreciate the effort you are making.

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