Restaurant owners across the North Olympic Peninsula are opening indoor dining this week as the region moves into Phase 2 of the Roadmap to Recovery plan today.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday afternoon that Monday all but six counties in the state would be in Phase 2, which allows for indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, before later in the evening changing the opening to Sunday.
“I know this creates more options for restaurants to make Valentine’s Day special for couples who hoped they could have a night out,” Inslee said in a press release. “I am confident people, young and old, will celebrate safely.
“And if it’s a first date that doesn’t go well, remind them to stay six feet away from you.”
Some restaurants that were able to have enough airflow with windows and doors open have been able to seat a limited amount of people inside, but this change allows them to no longer have to expose customers to cold winter air.
Restaurant owners across the Peninsula were busy preparing for the return of indoor dining on Friday.
Owner Dee Gardner of Joshua’s Restaurant in Port Angeles, is glad to be reopening the restaurant today with Valentine’s Day specials for indoor dining for about 55 people at a time.
The restaurant has been doing well with take-out, but she misses the community.
“It feels great,” Gardner said. “I’m very happy to be open.
“We’ve been doing well with takeout, but we miss our customers. It’s like family after awhile. We’re all excited to reopen. We’ve been working with a really short staff, so being able to bring everyone back is exciting.”
Whiskey Mill, Alchemy and Sirens Bar in Port Townsend owner Kris Nelson is excited to reopen the restaurants to indoor dining today,. She had purchased commercial ultraviolet (UV) air filters that are in every room of her restaurants to help limit virus activity indoors right before the order was made to shutter indoor dining to limit COVID-19 exposure.
Each of the restaurants can seat about 40 people inside and outdoor seating in the various heated tents will continue, Nelson said.
“I’m so excited, you have no idea,” she said Friday. “We managed 50 percent very well through the late summer and into the fall and I was concerned if people were going to be safe and they were.
“I was really sad when we had gotten shut down all together, as I had already taken these steps to keep people safe. So, now, we can use our UV filters and we can be open inside and be lovely and warm. I’m just thrilled.”
Sunshine Cafe Inc in Sequim co-owner Luke Shifflett has had the restaurant open indoors partially with the open-air policy and will be able to expand a little to about 15 to 20 people inside, while keeping two tables outside for those who do not feel safe dining indoors, he said.
While he was glad for the expansion, Shifflett would “like to see [restriction easements] move forward quicker” due to the lower levels of virus activity that the Peninsula has in comparison with the rest of the state.
Coyote BBQ in Port Angeles owner Michael McQuay said the restaurant will be reopening indoor dining on Monday and will be able to serve about 30 people indoors.
“It feels pretty darn good,” McQuay said. “It’s about time.”
Ichikawa Sushi Bar in Port Townsend owner Mark St. Oegger is planning to hold off on opening to indoor dining until potentially Friday, as the restaurant prepares. It is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
The restaurant can serve about 25 people indoors, St. Oegger said.
“It’s great. This whole thing has been killing businesses all over, so being able to open back up is really going to be able to help everybody,” he said.
An employee at Sully’s Drive-in in Forks confirmed that the restaurant will open indoor dining on Monday and can seat about 15 to 20 people.
The Halfway House in Brinnon will open to indoor dining Sunday with a seating capacity of 12, while continuing to serve via take-out and curbside, said Amy Gehrke, office manager.
It “feels good” to offer indoor dining again, she said, as the staff is tired of pure take-out orders.
Many restaurants will continue to serve food by take-out and curbside orders as well for those more comfortable eating at home.
Clallam and Jefferson counties were included in the Northwest Region which also included Kitsap and Mason counties. All but one region move to Phase 2 today.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]