SEATTLE — Some western Washington restaurants saw a glimmer of hope Thursday as the state announced restaurants in seven counties would be allowed to reopen indoor dining rooms to 25% capacity. Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement comes after months of restrictions limiting service to take out and outdoor dining.
The state said that two of eight regions in the state can loosen coronavirus precautions and move to Phase 2 of the state's "Healthy Washington" plan on Monday.
King, Pierce, Snohomish, Grays Harbor, Lewis, Pacific and Thurston are the only counties in the state allowed to move to Phase 2.
Among the changes in Phase 2, restaurants can open indoor dining up to 25% capacity until 11 p.m.
Steve Hooper Jr. is the President of Ethan Stowell Restaurants, which owns How to Cook a Wolf in Queen Anne. He said the restrictions have been hard on the restaurant and its staff.
“It has been the craziest emotional rollercoaster of my life and I hope to never have to repeat it,” said Hooper.
While the loosening of the restrictions will help, it's not a guarantee of success.
“Between the 25% indoor capacity, the outdoor spaces that we have at most of our restaurants and takeout and delivery, we think it’ll do a lot to continue to help us weather the winter," explained Hooper. "Will it be enough? Probably not.”
Pierce County Councilmember Dave Morell said that he believes the state could have allowed restaurants to open even more.
“I'm grateful for, you know, the 25%, but to me, 50% would have been a whole lot better and would have been a lot better received from our restaurant industry,” said Morell.
In a prepared statement, Washington Hospitality Association President and CEO Anthony Anton said the move to reopen wasn't enough and he criticized the state's past precautions.
"The Governor’s announcement today is an acknowledgment that his plan to slow the spread of COVID didn’t work," Anton said in a prepared statement. "Unfortunately, his new plan isn’t any better: Half our state’s population will now be under a completely different set of restrictions than the other half. COVID doesn’t stop at county lines, and in the second year of a global pandemic, we know that drastic bimonthly shutdowns are not an effective way to control spread."
Anton said most states have allowed limited indoor dining.
"The Washington Hospitality Association stands ready to work with the Administration on an evidence-based plan to allow for safe, regulated indoor dining at 50 percent capacity today so we can reduce the spread of COVID," said Anton.