Photo by Jessica Keller: Cafe Soleil on 34th Avenue in Madrona was one of the restaurants in the neighborhood that resident Kevin O’Doherty wanted to benefit from a GoFundMe campaign he started to raise money for rent. O’Doherty was worried the restaurants, which he described as the core of the neighborhood, would not survive without extra help from the community.
Photo by Jessica Keller: Cafe Soleil on 34th Avenue in Madrona was one of the restaurants in the neighborhood that resident Kevin O’Doherty wanted to benefit from a GoFundMe campaign he started to raise money for rent. O’Doherty was worried the restaurants, which he described as the core of the neighborhood, would not survive without extra help from the community.

A Madrona man concerned about whether restaurants in his village are going to survive through the pandemic has spearheaded a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help them survive the pandemic.

Kevin O’Doherty, a 22-year resident of Madrona and real estate broker for Windemere Madison Park, said he was spurred to act by Gov. Jay Inslee’s shutdown of indoor dining in November. At that time, it was evident to him the situation wasn’t going to improve by January, and O’Doherty wanted to do something for the restaurants, which he said make up the core of Madrona’s village.

“The first thing that occurred to me is that we’re going to lose all the restaurants in Madrona if somebody doesn’t do something,” O’Doherty said.

The restaurants included in his campaign are Bistro Turkuaz, The Bottlehouse, Café Soleil, The Hi Spot, Madrona Arms, Naam Thai Cuisine, Red Cow and Vendemmia. While he has no personal ties to any of the restaurants, O’Doherty said he has eaten at each of the restaurants and wanted to help.

“My reaction was kind of driven by a steady diet of grim stats and stories of how dire the situation is for small businesses and restaurants in particular,” O’Doherty said.

Most of the restaurants are family-run businesses, and between cost of supplies and overhead, they make a small profit to begin with.

“There’s only so long you can hold on,” he said.

O’Doherty first approached a few of the owners and asked them what they needed. After speaking with them, he concluded the best way to help was with money.

Since then, he has spoken to all of the owners about his plan, and he and a small team of people printed and handed out flyers to every household in Madrona and inside the windows of businesses and at some points of sale. He said staff at W Creative, an ad agency, donated their time for the creative aspect of the campaign design, and Girlie Press — a neighborhood print shop — printed all the flyers for free.

“It was very grassroots, old school,” O’Doherty said of the effort.

He launched the campaign in December, and the effort gained a lot of traction in the following months. As of the last week of January, it has raised close to $30,000.

While O’Doherty is going to leave the GoFundMe account open, he will not be waiting for the campaign to hit its target goal of $60,000 — the equivalent of about two months’ rent for each of the restaurants, before he distributes the money.   

O’Doherty also intends to begin a new phase of his campaign by turning his attention to all the businesses in Madrona. This plan doesn’t include a fundraiser but will include marketing and public relations efforts to increase awareness about what Madrona has to offer and, hopefully, generate more foot traffic on 34th Avenue.

“I mean, we’ve got to pump it up,” he said.

O’Doherty said Madrona is off the beaten path and not really a destination point, but it is a charming village and deserves the attention. He also hopes that residents start their own campaigns to benefit businesses in other neighborhoods of Seattle because help is needed everywhere.

“This is one of those moments in time where everybody needs to act,” O’Doherty said. “You can’t sit back and hope that everybody else is going to do it.”

To learn about the fundraising effort, or to donate, go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-madrona-restaurants.