PORT TOWNSEND — Reinstatement of some COVID-19 restrictions begins today with retail and grocery stores, social gatherings and other limitations during a critical time for small businesses, an economic development director said.
Restrictions on restaurants and bars returning to limited outdoor dining, curbside pickup and delivery will begin Wednesday.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Sunday a four-week statewide set of restrictions in response to the recent rapid spread of the coronavirus in the state and nation.
The restrictions include closing all fitness facilities and gyms, bowling centers, movie theaters, museums, zoos and aquariums. Retail stores — including grocery stores — must limit their indoor capacity to 25 percent.
Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, restaurants and bars will be limited to outdoor dining with tables seating no more than five people and to-go services such as curbside pickup and delivery.
Brian Kuh, the executive director for the Economic Development Council (EDC) Team Jefferson, is concerned about the impacts of the restrictions on small businesses in the county, but he hopes the community will rise to support them.
“I will say, I think it is incumbent upon us as local citizens to really make a concerted effort to patronize these businesses during this time, because this will undoubtedly be a hit to their revenues, especially going into a slower season,” Kuh said.
To assist with the closures and restrictions on service, the state is allotting $50 million to support businesses. However, clear outlines on whether the funds will be awarded through grants or loans has not been determined by the state yet, Kuh said.
Kuh predicts the funding will be a mix of grants and loans, and during a phone meeting Monday, he learned it’s likely that Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) such as Craft3 will likely oversee the distributions.
The EDC is finishing the distribution of more than $280,000 in grants to support businesses impacted by restrictions put in place earlier this year, Kuh said.
“The biggest concern is, prior to Sunday’s announcement, just extreme concerns for businesses that have had lower-than-historic cash flows due to COVID going into their slow reason without perhaps the cash reserves that they’ve relied on in previous years,” he said.
“That’s a baseline concern, and now, with these new restrictions, it’s just an additional concern on top of that. This is a time for local residents to step up and really make a concerted effort and a strong push to buy from these businesses. Keep them going,” he continued.
“I think we can do it. I really do. We know some businesses aren’t going to make it, but if we really rally as a community and support our own, I think we can keep a number of our businesses around to enjoy in the future.”
Aldrich’s Market in Uptown Port Townsend is one of the grocery stores that will be limited to 25 percent capacity. Its new owners took the possibility of new restrictions into account when they renovated the store this summer, so the only major change includes closing the upstairs seating area to the public, owner Yos Ligtenberg said.
“For us, even when we heard rumors about it on Saturday, I immediately closed the upstairs to all gathering, sitting or dining,” Ligtenberg said. “We just have to pay heed to the 25 percent rule now for retail, which shouldn’t affect us that much, just because we’re still kind of in the soft-open phase and we’re not dealing with overwhelming crowds in the store.
“I don’t think we’ve been at 25 percent capacity at any point with the exception of Oct. 10, when we opened up in coordination with the farmers market,” Ligtenberg said. “We’re just going to pay close attention to it, and obviously we have signs up and restrictions for upstairs.”
Kuh and EDC Team Jefferson plans to continue to support the businesses impacted by the latest restrictions.
“Through the [Chamber of Jefferson County] as well, we’re going to be putting the word out that this is game time now,” Kuh said. “This is time to get this done and support these businesses.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].