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Seattle bars and restaurants brace for a 'very different' NFL playoff weekend during COVID-19 restrictions

A home playoff game for the Seahawks would typically be a huge boost for bars and restaurants, but under COVID-19 restrictions, this weekend will be much different.

SEATTLE — Under normal circumstances, Saturday's Seahawks home game would be a big boost for Seattle bars, restaurants and hotels all weekend. But under current COVID-19 statewide restrictions, only take-out orders and outdoor dining are allowed. 

Public Health - Seattle and King County said the rules exist to save lives. 

While most places are following state guidelines, some businesses in King County are breaking the rules. Stimpy's Sports Bar and Grill in Kent is still welcoming customers inside. 

"We all live for Seahawks season," said Steven Siler, owner of Stimpy's. "They really want me to shut down. The health department is adamant about shutting me down. Liquor board the same." 

The state has issued warnings and violation notices.

In December, Stimpy’s received one written warning, one verbal warning and two Administrative Violation Notices (AVN) from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. According to WSLCB, the AVN is essentially a penalty against a business' license. All of Stimpy's AVNs were related to COVID-19 violations. Going back two years, Stimpy's had no violation history prior to December. 

Penalties may escalate up to the point of license revocation should they continue to operate, a WSLCB spokesperson wrote in a statement to KING 5. 

WSLCB has filed emergency suspensions of a handful of locations in recent months due to open defiance of the COVID restrictions and warnings from the state agency. An emergency suspension is when WSLCB immediately suspends a license for six months. During that period, WSLCB could move to revoke the license permanently.

When asked why Siler continues to not comply with COVID restrictions, he said, "Because the alternative is to lose it. I've got everything, my whole life was wrapped up here."

RELATED: Report finds no regions ready to reopen Jan. 11 under Inslee's 'Healthy Washington' plan

Bill Weise, General Manager of The Silver Cloud Stadium Hotel in Seattle, said they have temporarily closed the hotel's restaurant, Jimmy's on First.

"I think everybody should play the way that the Governor says we should play, along the rules," said Weise.

Mike Morris has temporarily closed his place, Fuel Sports Eats and Beats in Pioneer Square.

"Everybody has different economic pressure. But it seems like a very selfish thing, because what if we were all to defy the rules and everybody was to open? Then COVID would be even worse," said Morris. "The safety of your employees, the safety of the public, the safety of your customers has to be the number one thing over just making a buck."

The lack of business has been devastating for bars and restaurants, especially now.

"Typically with a playoff game, you'll have two or three or four night-stays with guests in the hotel. But also, they'll be spending money in the restaurants and the shops. So it's millions of dollars, plus the economic impact to the city with missed sales tax and also occupancy tax," said Weise.

"It is gigantic. I mean the Seahawks are the backbone of Pioneer Square," said Morris.

Stimpy's owner said the support he has received has been 99.5% positive.

"I'm not out to hurt anybody. We're just trying to make it," said Siler.

Public Health - Seattle and King County issued the following statement in regards to Stimpy's Sports Bar and Grill:

Statewide restrictions on indoor dining exist to save lives and get our communities through the pandemic and back to business as soon as possible. Our emphasis is on educating and supporting taverns and restaurants in their compliance with state regulations and guidelines. Suspension of a food service license for COVID-related violations is a last resort -- this has only happened three times, out of about 1,800 businesses inspected since late spring.

In this case, the operators of Stimpy’s were informed of the state requirements and their non-compliance in November. A follow-up inspection on Dec. 29 revealed that the business remained out of compliance. Only then did the Public Health inspection team suspend the restaurant’s license. If a restaurant is ordered to close for failing to comply with COVID safety requirements, they are required to submit a written COVID prevention plan to Public Health to review and approve. Public health is available to assist establishments develop COVID prevention plans and expedite the review and approval process so that businesses are reopened as soon as they meet all requirements. Public Health ensures the review and approval takes place within 24-48 hours in order to minimize the duration of business closure. Public Health has waived the normal fees required for reinstatement for COVID-related closures.

In this case, the business chose to violate the ordered closure and continued to operate without a valid permit. These actions not only violate the law, but they also endanger the business’s staff, patrons and the surrounding community.

Public Health is committed to working with food-service establishments on ways to remain open while keeping staff and customers as safe as possible. We recognize the precarious financial situation many small businesses, especially bars and restaurants, are in right now. However, purposely flouting regulations, putting others’ lives and health in danger, and possibly prolonging the outbreak in our community, is not acceptable.

We are currently evaluating next steps.