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The Swiss Restaurant & Pub in Tacoma is closing permanently


The Swiss Restaurant & Pub in Tacoma is closing permanently, the restaurant announced. The restaurant was in business for 27 years and was known as one of the best destinations in the area for live music, a great selection of beer and excellent pub food.

What could and should have been a different story was wrecked by pandemic restrictions on restaurants. Here’s what I know. The Swiss had a buyer lined up and the closing on the sale was set to be August 31. Carole Ann McQuade, wife of Swiss founder Jack McQuade, told me this morning that the sale fell through.

“The deal fell through. They needed us to wait until the end of Phase 4,” said Carole Ann McQuade this morning. “It doesn’t make financial sense to wait. We understood why they requested that, but we had to make the decision that we couldn’t do that.”

“With the sale not following through, this is the decision we had to make,” she said.

The Swiss had been offering take-out and was serving in its outdoor dining space, but an uncertain future steered them to this decision.

“There’s just no way we can financially recoup what we’ve already lost and what we would continue to lose by waiting to reopen and be successful again with the climate. And you know, with everything that’s happening, it just doesn’t pencil out for us. We had to make the decision to stop the financial bleeding.”

She added, “Nobody knows when Phase 4 is going to be and the truth is that The Swiss is a great live music space with great food, but we rely on large gatherings.” The uncertainty of when large gatherings will be permitted again left them nervous for their financial future.

She said they’re heartbroken over the closure. “We were so happy for the sale because we knew The Swiss would live on and it’s not just personal, it’s heartbreaking for members of the community. You know this is literally our second home, our children have grown up here. It means so much more than a business.”

The closure also means uncertainty for what’s next for the McQuades. “Retirement isn’t an option for us right now,” she said. “We’re going to get through this closing of the business and take a little time to breathe and recoup and then you know, start looking for work probably.”

She added that they wanted to thank their longtime loyal patrons and the greater community for so many years of support. “We just loved being a part of the community. Being able to support the local musicians, all the fundraisers that were here. We loved being a part of all of that. It’s our community, you know, it’s where we chose to live and raise our children and that’s just hugely important to us. It’s heartbreaking on many levels.”

Jack McQuade co-founded The Swiss in April 1993 with Bob Hill, who has since retired, and Gayl Bertagni, the restaurant’s co-founder and chef who died in a tragic accident in 2009.

McQuade, Hill and Bertagni were young, poor and serious downtown Tacoma trailblazers in 1993 when they opened The Swiss in a neighborhood that was a mess. There were more shady dealings than honest businesses operating in that particular stretch of downtown 27 years ago.

“It was a pretty rough neighborhood, recalled Jack when I spoke with him and Carole Ann for their anniversary in April. “By 1995, the area started getting cleaned up. And a lot happened. The History Museum was built and the University of Washington started working on their buildings.”

I loved The Swiss, like a lot of natives to the 253. And Pacific Grill, which announced its permanent closure this week, was another huge blow to downtown Tacoma. I’m not sure what downtown dining will look like when this is all over.

2020 has been horrible to restaurants. Here’s another reminder to go eat at your favorite restaurant today. That’s one small thing you can do to ensure it survives this terrible era.

And I do know this: These are some pretty big closures, but there’s still a growing restaurant scene here. In the last two months, I have written about the opening of Little Radio in downtown Tacoma, Gilman House in the Stadium neighborhood, BB.Q Olive Chicken in Lakewood, Cooper’s Food + Drink in the Westgate neighborhood, Ice Cream Social is expanding again, Delish Bakery in Steilacoom and Pour Me Bar & Bistro on the border of Graham and South Hill. Many of those openings were planned before the pandemic began, but there’s enough permit activity and new restaurant leasing happening that I’m optimistic for what’s coming next.

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