The Veg and its owner Shiem Swift are proving to be one of the city’s most resilient food businesses. Forced to close its 6th Street location after the mass shooting at Power Ultra Lounge a month ago today, The Veg is in active negotiations with several parties on finding a new kitchen and bringing its vegan menu back to the city. Assuming negotiations go well, it would mark yet another transition for a business that has shown it won’t be stopped.
“I woke up after all that happened, and I just kept getting phone calls from people wanting to know if I was ok and what we were going to do,” said Swift. “My customers actually set up the GoFundMe page and wrote up the press release. So just a few days later, I decided to go for it.”
The Veg had enjoyed a very successful month as a full service restaurant in the former Lulav space when a mass shooting broke out on July 1 at Power, injuring more than two dozen people and leading the city to close down the business. That meant The Veg could no longer operate in the first floor location. Swift was in Hot Springs when the shooting took place, but even before he could return home, Swift says wheels were in motion to get The Veg going again.
“While I was still trying to figure out what I was trying to do, the community already had a plan,” said Swift with a laugh. “I was getting calls, not ‘if you’re opening up,’ but ‘when you’re opening up.’ When I started looking at the comments, it was so emotional, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to do this.’ We still had people recommending The Veg to others on Facebook, they didn’t realize we were closed.
“I had to do it for the culture, you know, the community. It’s not just me, they’ve built it with me.”
Swift first made sure his employees had somewhere to work in the interim, and was able to get them hired at The Southern Gourmasian. The Veg has continued catering and big events, including something Swift calls “nitrogen parties,” where he uses liquid nitrogen to create rapidly chilled vegan dishes and desserts. All the while, Swift has been in talks with several restaurant spaces and food truck owners around the city to find a permanent spot. And even while his restaurant is closed, Swift is contributing to the vegan community by regularly posting where his followers can find places to eat.
“I would like to change the way we do small business around here,” said Swift. “When we’re close, I want to be posting all the places you can get vegan around town. We want them to eat. So we’ve started doing that, I want people to see that.”
For now, fans of The Veg can help out by contributing to the GoFundMe page that restaurant customers set up. Swift indicated that talks are moving along, and an announcement could be coming sooner rather than later. No matter how they turn out, Swift’s inextinguishable passion promises to keep The Veg moving forward.
“We want to be an example of perseverance. Sh*t happens, but winners win. Big K.R.I.T. says, ‘You gotta play to the end. The only diff’ between a winner and a loser is a winner plays until he wins.’
“Remember who you are, imagine who you’re going to be.”