By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Popular diner Meander’s Kitchen in White Center closed early today – about two hours short of its usual 3 pm closing.
That wouldn’t be noteworthy, except for the circumstances: A management change, made with King County Sheriff’s Office deputies standing by, following 12-plus hours of unofficial claims, attributed to employees, that today would be Meander’s last day of operations.
First word of this came with postings in various spots on Facebook late Saturday night/early Sunday morning – including the “posts by others” section of the WSB page – saying that Sunday would be the restaurant’s last day open and urging customers to come show support. We also received a text message to that effect, saying the staff was opening the restaurant in hopes of making enough money to cover payroll and vendors. By morning, this sign was up at the restaurant (several people texted us the image):
Patrons told us employees were also telling them personally that it was closing. Contacted via Facebook, restaurant founder Miranda Krone – working out of town as a maritime chef – told us that was definitely not true, and that a new general manager/partner, Afton Larsen, who had been part of Meander’s operations in its early West Seattle days, would arrive at the restaurant later in the day to sort things out.
Larsen also contacted us directly to say she would be at the restaurant “this afternoon to talk with staff in person and keep our doors open.” And a post on the restaurant’s official FB page echoed, “We are NOT closing”:
We had planned to check in by mid-afternoon – and then came a text from a patron about the arrival of deputies, around 1:15 pm, with diners being told that service was ended for the day (regular daily closing time has been 3 pm). That accelerated our plan to go check on the situation. WSB co-publisher Patrick Sand was told on arrival that the deputies were there to ensure an orderly transition, but that there was no trouble and no one had been arrested.
Some employees say their paychecks had bounced, but so far, no one has reported filing a complaint with state Labor and Industries. Larsen (photo below) told us she was just starting to go through the books so didn’t know the status of the restaurant’s accounting yet.
She said some of the current staff has agreed to stay on; she said she hopes Meander’s will be open tomorrow, usual hours, but if circumstances make that infeasible, they would expect to reopen by midweek, potentially with limited service until things are straightened out.
Meander’s first opened in January 2011 in the tiny ex-Jade West Café north of Morgan Junction. Its popularity led Krone to seek a new, larger space, and Meander’s moved to its first White Center space in fall 2012. That turned out to be a bit too big, she said, moving the restaurant to its current space at 9809 16th SW in late summer 2013.
6:54 PM UPDATE: Via e-mail, Larsen says, “We will be open from 10-3 tomorrow running a limited menu with a skeleton crew.”
11:25 PM UPDATE: As discussed in the comment section, while a variety of allegations/rumors continue flying here, we don’t report what can’t be substantiated/verified, until and unless it is. One thing we did verify a short time ago, after some difficulty getting into online court records: An unlawful-detainer (potential eviction) complaint was initiated against the restaurant in late June by the previous tenant from whom they sublease. A hearing date was set for July 10th but online records do not indicate any court action taken then or since. We are seeking clarification from the new management on whether that means it’s been resolved.
11:19 AM MONDAY: Owner Krone responded via text that the rent is now current and resolution of the case is being negotiated by lawyers. Asked if there was any chance the restaurant would be evicted, she replied, no.