PORT ANGELES — As Barhop Brewing and Artisan Pizza resumes inside dining, restaurant patrons are finding reduced occupancy and a policy of giving priority seating to regulars and residents of the North Olympic Peninsula.
Barhop owner Tom Curry said the bar and pizzeria, which has been open for carry-out orders since March, resumed inside operations Monday as Clallam County moved into Phase 2 of COVID-19 recovery.
“Our community has supported us through every off-season for the last nine years,” Curry said. “And through this new economy created through the pandemic, we want to support them. We will seat locals first.
“When we have space available, we’re happy to seat tourists. But [area residents] will be our priority.”
Curry said the “locals first” policy would apply at Barhop, 124 W Railroad Ave., the flagship property, and at the newly-opened The Rail, a block away at 128 E. Railroad Ave.
Any customer would be able to place a carry-out order, he said.
Barhop has been able to offer pizzas and other items from their menu, as well as quart-sized “crowler” cans of beer to go. The Rail has offered food and libations from a walk-up window facing Railroad Avenue.
Outdoor seating at chairs and picnic tables in front of Barhop have been available since indoor dining was put on hold statewide in March to promote social distancing.
Curry said the shutdown has been difficult financially for his two restaurants and has put a damper on beer-making operations at Barhop’s brewery near William R. Fairchild International Airport.
He said it was likely that most other restaurants affected by COVID-19 guidelines were facing similar financial woes.
If and when Washington ends strict social-distancing guidelines on restaurant occupancy, Curry said he suspects that Barhop will never be able to go back to its previous seating capacity of over 100. The Rail had a previous capacity of about 50 patrons.
“We don’t know what our occupancy is going to be,” he said. “It’s not going to be like the old Barhop, where you walked in and grabbed a table, because we’re not going to have that many tables.”
Media Relations Director Natalie White said counter workers are usually able to spot regular long-time customers, but could not rule out asking people in line where they were from during busy periods. Some people may be given the option of waiting for an opening or otherwise be given the option to place an order to-go.
“We’re not going to turn anyone away,” she said.
“You can eyeball regulars.” Curry added. “You kind of know the folks who are from here and who aren’t.”
Curry said he understood that some potential customers might be miffed by the locals-first policy. He admitted that it was a “bold move.”
“Some people may choose to go somewhere else,” he said. “We’ll be happy to make recommendations to the other restaurants in town.”
Photojournalist Keith Thorpe can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 59050, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.