PORT ANGELES — Dogs were freshly groomed, people dined in and tables were spread apart as many business owners breathed a sigh of relief Monday.
Some businesses across the North Olympic Peninsula opened their doors for the first time in more than two months due to COVID-19 restrictions as both Clallam and Jefferson counties joined Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-part state reopening plan.
At the same time, an additional case was confirmed in Jefferson County on Monday, bringing the total to 31, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County Health Officer.
The most recent case is the first pediatric occurrence in Jefferson County and is the first new case in the county since April 9. The child was screened before having a surgery and the test returned positive, although they were asymptomatic, Locke said.
“These are very much the cases that we want to find,” he said.
Both counties on Monday entered a near-full Phase 2 of Inslee’s “Safe Start” plan, which opened in-store retail shopping and in-restaurant dining, as well as other activities.
Overnight camping is the sole Phase 2 activity that won’t be allowed for either county until the rest of the state has entered the same phase.
Some manufacturing and professional businesses reopened, nail and hair salons were back in business, pet groomers were busy, and restaurants could open to sit-down dining with up to 50 percent capacity.
The New Day Eatery at the corner of Front and Laurel streets in Port Angeles had a sign above its door stating, “It’s a new day … and we’re back!”
“We’re excited,” said New Day Eatery manager Monica Farris. “We’re really excited to be open for the community and back serving our guests.”
Tables were spread apart and employees all wore masks at New Day. The restaurant is following a number of strict guidelines, such as servers changing disposable gloves every time they serve a customer.
At the Maestrale import store on Water Street in Port Townsend, owner Jennefer Wood and her employees laid arrows around the floor with painter’s tape to help guide traffic flow, and they have a hand sanitizer station at the front door with face masks for sale.
Wood said there wasn’t a significant problem with reopening Monday, but it has been challenging to meet all the requirements set by the state’s guidelines.
“It’s just so many rules and restrictions,” Wood said. “It’s no one specific thing, it’s how much detail there is.”
Smugglers Landing owner Rich Mathis said he’s printed about 250 paper menus. Once a customer uses one, it’s thrown away. The restaurant also has to follow strict guidelines for sanitizing and cleaning the tables and rest of the business.
Mathis had plenty of customers in the mid-afternoon hours between lunch and dinner.
He said one of the good things he saw from during the shutdown is people who brought plenty of masks for the restaurant to use for employees once a state requirement for masks becomes required next week.
“This is a process we have to go through,” Mathis said. “I hope we never have to go through it again.”
Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank referred to Inslee’s order on face masks in public, a requirement for all employees in a workplace if they come within 6 feet of other workers or the public. The order goes into effect June 8.
“This addition came as a surprise to a lot of us, me included,” Unthank said.
Unthank stressed that law enforcement won’t go to local businesses to enforce the rule. Any enforcement would come from the state Department of Labor and Industries, she said.
“Law enforcement have important things to do,” Unthank said. “Frankly, we don’t think it’s a good idea for them to be doing that.”
Unlike Jefferson County, Unthank said she does not plan to recommend a mandate that masks be worn in public.
“I don’t think it’s enforceable,” she said. “I don’t want to put a burden on law enforcement.”
The Jefferson County mandate began Monday, and both Wood and Joyce Janetski, who owns the World’s End nautical store on Water Street in Port Townsend, said their customers were following the directive.
“The biggest stress for me has been financial,” Janetski said, explaining she’s been able to pull through so far because she received a small Paycheck Protection Loan, and she worked out a rent deal with her landlord.
“If (the landlord) hadn’t, I would’ve been out of here,” she said. “The big thing that saved me was my landlord.”
Being back working in the store Monday for Janetski was “surreal, I kind of forgot how to use my point-of-sale system this morning because I hadn’t touched it in two and a half months.”
Back in Port Angeles, Kit-n-Kapoodle Pet Salon’s phones were off the hook as people who had been waiting for three months to get their pets groomed called all day, owner Aleshea Truckenmiller said.
She has a waiting list of shaggy dogs waiting for new hairdos as 35 people called on Monday. Truckenmiller said her business typically grooms eight to 10 dogs a day.
“They’re tipping us very well,” she said. “They missed us, and we missed them and love their dogs.”
Jake Oppelt, owner of Next Door Gastropub and Bourbon West in Port Angeles, said he nearly has all of his employees back at their normal hours.
Next Door Gastropub stayed open for takeout during the shutdown and had a busy food truck parked on Front Street as well the past few weeks.
“Everybody is extremely excited to be back,” Oppelt said. “The staff is excited. The capacity is 50 percent; it feels a bit like a slow day.”