Washington state advanced to Phase 3 of the governor's “Healthy Washington” reopening plan Monday, meaning big changes for restaurants, bars and bowling alleys across western Washington. Indoor dining and activities can now operate at 50% capacity.
“Oh, that’s music to my ears. Absolute music,” said Joann Evans of Kenmore Lanes. The crack of pins marked the busiest Monday that Kenmore Lanes has seen in a year.
“For the (bowling) industry across the United States, it’s been awful, just awful," Evans continued. "Because most of the bowling centers like ours have been closed for months and months and months.”
Pre-pandemic, Evans ran Kenmore Lanes with a staff of around 50 people. As of Monday, she employs 27 people.
Bartender Tiffany Gee hasn’t worked full-time for nearly a year, “Hearing these noises again and having all the regular customers again is so nice and to have family back is amazing."
Over in Redmond, Thomas Wilhite is able to bring back a fifth employee to his restaurant Palmer's East. He just hopes this reopening lasts.
“We went through this once before, and then we went backwards and threw away a bunch of food. I’m hopeful that it doesn’t do that again. I do see light at the end of the tunnel,” Wilhite said.
The light comes after a long year of darkness, especially for Evans and her Kenmore Lanes family. Her husband and business partner was by her side as the COVID-19 pandemic changed their world. But he recently passed away.
“He did not get to see us climbing out of the valley… The valley was as deep as the Grand Canyon,” Evans said.
While Phase 3 doesn't mark the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's a big step forward for Evans, Wilhite and small business owners across Washington.