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Restaurant layoffs return in Washington right after second COVID-19 crackdown

With news of restrictions on bars and restaurants, the owner at Salish Sea Brewing was forced to lay off four of his 18 employees.

EDMONDS, Wash — On a gloomy Monday, less than 24 hours after Gov. Jay Inslee's announcement re-implementing some coronavirus lockdown measures, Salish Sea Brewing owner Jeff Barnett hopes for a brighter holiday season grew dim. 

"It's terrible. It's absolutely terrible," he said. "We knew it was gonna happen, we just didn't know when."

The governor's new clampdown means, starting Wednesday, bars and restaurants can only do takeout or outdoor dining with parties of no more than five.

That news forced Barnett to gather his employees on Sunday night and tell them that four of the 18 no longer have a job.

RELATED: Seattle businesses brace for new restrictions, but some have found ways to adapt

"I had to leave and take a moment to myself because I really care about our team," Barnett said. "It's heartbreaking. It really hurts. We care about these people tremendously. They're part of our family. They have families and bills to pay."

It's a far different scene than in June when Snohomish County was reopening and moving into Phase 2.

Clad in a sasquatch costume, Barnett was riding around Edmonds on a bike, encouraging people to pay his pub a visit.

The eternal optimist, Barnett told KING 5 at the time, "We're going to make it. We're going to be just fine."

Now, outdoor tables sit empty as a cold, hard rain comes down, and no one is sure what looms on the horizon.

"We have no predictions right now," said Barnett. "There's no pile of money in the back room. Every day is a new day. We have to accommodate for those changes that we go with."

RELATED: Aid available to businesses, individuals impacted by Washington's new COVID-19 restrictions

Shortly after the governor's announcement on Sunday, hospitality industry officials said 100,000 restaurant jobs across the state are expected to disappear in the coming days.

The short notice gave restaurants everywhere very little time to prepare.

"We have a refrigeration unit full of food. We're preparing for weeks as they go. I'm looking at spoilage and what our costs are. We've done all we can. We've set up safety barriers and accommodations to make sure we are providing the safest option that we can," Barnett said.

On Sunday, Inslee said some sort of additional financial assistance will be coming in the form of grants and loans to small businesses. 

He indicated $50 million will be allocated for struggling businesses.

When that will come remains unclear.

For now, Barnett is just trying to keep the lights on and the beer flowing as he, once again, converts to takeout, hoping for better days ahead. 

"We have to be here for our customers and for our workers. We have no choice but to stay positive," he said. "We'll keep it going. We'll keep it going."

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