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Potential Phase 2 rollback puts strain on Snohomish, King County's local businesses

As King and Snohomish counties prepare to roll back to phase 2, local shops are struggling to adjust.

BURIEN, Wash. — As King County gets ready to enact stricter guidelines to combat COVID-19, local business owners like Robyn Desimone are wondering how much longer this will go on.

Desimone has been running Iris and Peony in downtown Burien for the past six years, but this past year has been the hardest yet.

“We’re literally learning every day,” Desimone said. “There’s no way to look at what was and plan for the future. We just have to…wing it.”

Unfortunately, more change is on the way.

Under state guidelines, King and Snohomish counties needed to have 200 or fewer new cases and no more than five hospitalizations per 100,000 people over a period of two weeks to stay in Phase 3, but both counties are currently failing to meet both metrics.

Now, shop owners are trying to adapt once again to a changing landscape.

“The business community values predictability above all things, and if COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s that predictability is difficult,” said Andrea Reay, CEO of the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce.

David Bersanadaze, owner of Golden Fleece Billiards in Everett, said businesses offering experiences are at an extra disadvantage because they don't have a product to sell online or curbside. 

"We have to let them go again, and close down again? I don't know how we're going to survive, you know, because I have double bills, for the building, taxes and everything for the business," Bersanadaze said. 

His business is in a two-story, 9,000 square foot facility. 

"We're all vaccinated so I don't understand," Bersanadaze said. "There's a big distance between the people." 

Greg Olsen, the Executive Director of the Washington State Bowling Proprietor's Association, said he doesn't believe the rollback should impact bowling centers. 

"We're so grateful to see this outpouring and then the next week we have to roll back to 25% or to zero, what do those poor employees do?" Olsen said. 

County leaders are trying to help bring some relief, but there’s only so much to be done to address everyone’s issues.

“The needs vary pretty dramatically,” Reay said. “Going from 50% to 25% might mean that some of our restaurants, for example, end up closing and only doing takeout. It doesn’t make sense for them to do just 25% dine-in, it actually just makes more sense for them to switch from 50% dine-in to 100% take out.”

But months of uncertainty may be too much for local businesses to handle.

“I would say, 50% of my business would be weddings and events, so now to have it phase back to Phase 2, would mean at least another year before I could even explore doing business in those areas,” said Desimone. “In Phase 2, I may have to lay staff off again. No matter what, I’m always the one standing here, but for us to keep adapting and keep adapting, at some point, it just becomes enough for us.”