After leaving city council, Richards planning new restaurant format, doesn’t rule out return to politics

If there was any thought that Mountlake Terrace’s Seaun Richards would step away from the public limelight in 2020, that speculation was laid to rest this week as the restaurateur and former city councilmember announced big changes are coming to his Red Onion eatery.

Richards also hinted that private business ownership still isn’t his only interest and that he may eventually return to local politics to seek another term on the Mountlake Terrace City Council.

Richards ended his second term as a councilmember last month, keeping a promise he had made to voters that he would serve no more than eight years in the post. Now without city council duties, Richards is turning his full attention to the restaurant he owns and operates, which he says is struggling.

“It’s not working (and) I’m tired of putting money into it,” Richards said. “So I’m going to do sliders and little sandwiches instead.”

“With the minimum wage going up, I’ve got to do something,” he continued. “It’s going to be where the customers are going to come up to the counter (for service).”

Richards has announced that the Red Onion Cafe and Seafood Bar — known until July 2019 as Red Onion Burgers — will be closing on Wednesday, Jan. 15. He plans to restructure the space that the restaurant occupies at 21005 44th Ave. W. Suite A in Mountlake Terrace and create a new fast casual eatery void of any waitstaff.

Initial plans are to call the new enterprise 44th Street Sliders, Richards said.

Richards announced the closure of his current eatery via a press release that began, “The community is invited to celebrate an 11-year culinary and community journey.”

“Red Onion Burgers is my proudest business achievement,” the release states. “It has been bad ass and remarkable. I would not have enjoyed years of success without the community, many of whom are now friends. And I recognize what an important icon Red Onion Burgers/Cafe has become in the community, so I wanted to give as much notice as possible … Taking time to properly say goodbye is of utmost importance as I close this chapter.”

Closing Red Onion Burgers/Cafe and opening a new restaurant in its place is another big life change for Richards following a year of many changes. In addition to leaving the city council, during 2019 Richards moved, got divorced and became a grandfather.

In his press release announcing the closure of Red Onion Burgers/Cafe, Richards hinted at these other life events.

“This last year has been a real challenge,” he said. “Life has a way of taking ups and downs. With that said I have always looked forward to introducing a new chapter that includes a new restaurant in my life. I look forward to introducing you to my next chapter and new restaurant.”

Richards told MLTnews that despite associated challenges, he has no plans to discontinue the annual community projects he and his charitable organization Cheeseburger Babies Foundation help run: the city’s Easter egg hunt, 3rd of July celebration and the Shop With a Cop holiday gift program.

Richards even suggested he may again be interested in serving on the Mountlake Terrace City Council.

“I’m thinking about coming back on in two years,” Richards said.  

Richards insisted he didn’t seek re-election this past fall because of a core belief he has in public service. “I truly believe that two terms (should) be it,” he said. “I just think two terms, then let other people have a chance.”

But for now, Richards is devoted to making a new restaurant venture sustainable. 

While looking ahead, Richards reflected on the first restaurant he established in Mountlake Terrace: “As I prepare to move on, I want to thank the community, my valued guests and vendors for successfully making Red Onion Burgers/Cafe a part of the community,” he stated in his press release.

— By Doug Petrowski

 

  1. Minimum wage is a red herring. My family stopped going for anything beyond ice cream just based on quality and presentation. If the food quality improves, people will come back and the increase business can offset the wage increase. I’m glad to see a more focused menu coming.

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