Yen Wor Village says goodbye; After 60 years, the doorways of West Seattle’s oldest Chinese language restaurant shut perpetually

karaoke stage

The most well-liked karaoke tune at West Seattle’s Yen Wor Village lately has been “Don’tStop Believing.” from Journey.

However regardless of the assumption of hundreds of loyal followers, Yen Wor will shut its doorways for the final time after 60 years of operation on March 31. The final night time of efficient operation is Wednesday 29 March.

Run since 1989 by Gary and Wendy Wong, Yen Wor was an American/Chinese language model restaurant with combo meals, leisurely sit-down dinners, and fortune cookies on the finish. However over time the Yen Wor has modified, relying extra on the lounge to generate income. With a couple of enhancements made on the within it has moved on to ‘dive bar’ standing. In a way, the Wongs wore that nickname with delight. In any case, individuals liked it and numerous birthdays, stag and hen events and different celebrations ended there, with family and friends singing their hearts out. Their repute as a spot for laborious drinks and late night time enjoyable was well-known.

However then the restaurant fell sufferer to an unlucky flip of occasions.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, they’d already lowered indoor seating for the restaurant, however had been doing fairly effectively with takeout. They’d an enormous following for his or her karaoke enterprise. The bar featured a stage, with a mirror ball, coloured lights, and a dance flooring. It meant for these trying to drink and sing themselves hoarse, the Yen Wor was the place to make these recollections.

The Yen Wor Village stage was the scene of many vocal performances. Photograph by Patrick Robinson
yen working bar
Yen Wor village cafe. Photograph by Patrick Robinson.
sports area
When eating was now not attainable as a result of pandemic, they switched to a ping pong desk and a pool desk. Photograph by Patrick Robinson

The pandemic meant that the bar enterprise was gone and there was no indoor eating, no karaoke nights. They fought. The lease was over $8,000 a month for a constructing in want of great updating.

Plus the additional costs that had been being charged.

However then issues acquired even worse.

In November of 2020 Gary had a routine flu shot and examined constructive for Covid and was hospitalized, went to the ICU and was put into an induced coma, then placed on a ventilator and had a tracheotomy. Whereas battling Covid, Gary suffered a stroke and misplaced 90% mobility on his proper facet.

He was despatched to a rehabilitation facility in Shelton, Wa. in February 2021 after a one-month keep in intensive care.

As if Gary’s sickness wasn’t unhealthy sufficient, Wendy had an accident whereas strolling the canine, hit her head and broke bones in her higher backbone and decrease neck, requiring surgical procedure prolonged or its spinal twine, together with fusion of the vertebrae with pins within the neck. . She additionally broke some tooth.

She nonetheless suffers from nerve injury, it’s tough for her to stroll as her motor expertise have disappeared and she or he has a lack of mobility in her head and neck.

Gary will possible stay in a wheelchair; he wants fixed care. Each Gary and Wendy are nonetheless in bodily and occupational remedy, unable to drive, and require ongoing remedy.

However Wendy is hard. In actual fact she was typically on the restaurant serving to out the place she may.

Wendy Wong Triptych
Wendy Wong is gloomy, resigned and relieved on the similar time. Photograph by Patrick Robinson

Sons Larry and Issac leapt into motion and took over the reins making menu modifications and dealing to construct enterprise. They’ve obtained assist from throughout West Seattle with donations pouring right into a GoFundMe web page and benefitting from performances by native musicians together with Brent Amaker and the Rodeo.

However regardless of the assistance they had been behind financially. The property administration firm has requested to pay the overdue lease on the 4800 sq. foot area. Not an unreasonable query, however enterprise was nonetheless struggling to recuperate from the one-two punch of the pandemic and the closure of the West Seattle Bridge.

Addressing the dilemma, Larry mentioned, “It was about paying lease or shopping for working provides for the week or paying staff. There is a lengthy custom of paying Chinese language cooks some kind of bonus, however it often got here from my mom suggestions when she was a bartender so I needed to pay them out of pocket… when my mother and father ran it they could not simply pay themselves a couple of weeks if it was sluggish. however we do not have that luxurious”

Isaac Wong
Issac Wong has spent hundreds of hours within the kitchen. Photograph by Patrick Robinson
Larry Wong has been operating the enterprise for the previous two years. Photograph by Jay Cates

He defined that the shortcoming to rent cooks meant Issac needed to work all shifts, generally working greater than 80 hours per week. “She is burning.”

Talking about his mother and father, Larry mentioned: ‘That was positively the basis of a number of happiness, however it’s additionally the basis of a number of unhappiness and anger and frustration. He cannot work. So it has been a really tough two years of shifting issues round. .”

The property administration firm is asking for $80,000 up entrance to permit the enterprise to remain open, plus a lease improve coming in a renegotiation. “I can perceive $10,000 a month in Junction,” Larry defined, “as a result of they’ve foot site visitors. We’re down California Ave.”

Wendy and Gary met in Hong Kong in 1987. She was “the final of my group of associates to get married,” she mentioned. At the moment they had been approached by one among their cousins ​​who was a associate in a restaurant referred to as Yen Wor Village in Seattle that had been working because the early Sixties. The placement beforehand housed the primary Ben Paris pool corridor in Seattle.

Gary was a chef and so they selected to return to Seattle and run the restaurant in 1990. A 12 months later their son Gary was born and enterprise was good. Son Issac joined the household in 1998.

Conventional American/Chinese language meals like Almond Hen and Egg Foo Younger was nearly unique within the Sixties as tastes began to vary. TImmediately there are greater than 40,000 Chinese language eating places in America.The lack of the Yen Wor means individuals hungry for it on the West Seattle peninsula must flip to New Luck Toy, Dumplings of Fury, Roxy’s On line casino, or the grocery retailer’s steam desk choices. A long way away in Burien are the Blissful Backyard restaurant, the venerable Wah Kue, the King Wha and Eat Time.

Asian meals normally often ranks at or close to the highest of favourite meals in america in keeping with quite a few surveys.

Not Busch
Micah Busch, Yen Wor’s “Ok-Jay”, sings metallic songs himself. He is been there for six years. Photograph by Patrick Robinson
Rachel Reis
Rachel Reis has been working at Yen Wor since she was 16.
Karaoke in action
Sammy on stage singing. Photograph by Patrick Robinson

Karaoke did not enter the combo till the Nineties, having began in Japan round 1971, made its solution to America within the mid-Nineteen Eighties, after which turned increasingly more widespread. Immediately it’s a worldwide phenomenon with tournaments and world champions.

Wendy mentioned she’s unhappy: “It is laborious to say goodbye.” Gary is, in keeping with Larry, distraught however completed. “He says he offers every little thing to the property administration firm.”

Bartender Jay Cates (who additionally works on the Boombox in White Heart) mentioned, “West Seattle is certainly dropping an iconic bar that can by no means get replaced or replicated. It’s extremely unhappy. I have been associates with Wendy and my household over time. years. I am simply glad I used to be part of it for the previous few months earlier than it closed. Numerous love.”

Rachel Reis, who has labored there since she was 16 and has labored as “Ok-Jay” since she was 21, she and Micah Busch, Loretta Jones and Sami A’Saurus’ accomplished musical duties there.

And there is the potential for the corporate to file for chapter even when they’d somewhat not.

So what’s subsequent for the Wong household? It is a quiet life for Gary and Wendy as they retire.

Wendy mentioned, “We love all of the assist from the West Seattle neighborhood! It is actually laborious to say goodbye.”

Larry mentioned he is taken some flying classes and would possibly wish to pursue one thing in aviation.

Issac mentioned, “I am not going to do something for some time and I am simply going to take it straightforward. This has been very taxing for me.”

So the top is March thirty first however the thousand recollections will dwell on for a very long time.

In any case, within the phrases of Wendy’s favourite karaoke tune,
“Do not let the solar go down on me.”

Wong family
Gary and Wendy with Gary’s mom in 1989. Larry was a couple of months outdated. Photograph courtesy of the Wong household.
wong family in 1998
Gary with son Larry, Issac (little) and Wendy in 1998. Photograph courtesy of the Wong household
The local landmark
The title that has been on the nook of California Ave and School Avenue within the Admiral District for 60 years will likely be gone. Photograph by Patrick Robinson