Paseo has closed. You might have heard it already from the stunned news reports and neighborhood gossip that flurried through Seattle on Tuesday. Paseo, celebrated Cuban sandwich shop. Paseo, #2 on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in America. Paseo, Seattle treasure.
The news came as a shock to just about everyone. One day Paseo was selling hundreds of Caribbean Roasts, and the next, the front door was locked and the window bore an epitaph.
No one expected it. Not the landlord, who told the Seattle Times, “I had no idea. What I got was my daughter calling me from Hawaii saying Paseo’s was closing. That’s kind of weird that it gets all the way to Hawaii before I even found out about it.” Not the workers. They showed up at work along with dozens of customers and faced the same sign: No Paseo. Not in Fremont, where the sandwich shop had operated for 21 years, and not in Ballard, either, where it had operated for six.
The cause, it turns out, comes from a labor dispute that began last March, when four ex-employees filed a lawsuit against Paseo’s president, Lorenzo Lorenzo. According to the workers’ claims, they worked 80 hours per week without receiving time-and-a-half for overtime, and also without receiving legally mandated breaks for rest and meals. Half their wages were paid in cash, as well, and not documented in the official payroll system. The official complaint is available here.
The trial against Lorenzo will begin next October. Paseo’s closure though, begins now.
Fremont feels a little empty, and so do our stomachs. So what do we do now?
- There’s a Kickstarter trying to bring back Paseo, minus the problematic employee treatment, of course. But that would require at least $250,000, and even then, there’s no guarantee. So far, seven backers have pledged $953. $249,000 to go.
- But Seattle has other sandwich shops. None quite like Paseo, God rest its soul, but quite good in their own right. Some of the best:
The news of Paseo’s passing hits Seattle hard. But at the same time, in a weird way, it’s reassuring. We live in a bustling city with Amazon and Microsoft and brand-new apartment complexes. Murders and car accidents happen regularly. But a closed restaurant can still make headlines.
Seattle might be the fast growing city in the nation, but it hasn’t lost its community. Favorite sandwich shops still matter. People rally to support their local treasures. That sense of neighborhood community is still the backbone of Seattle–and that, even bereft of everyone’s beloved Cuban sandwiches, is something to celebrate.
Photo by TheRealBobCobb