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Washington steps up COVID-19 restrictions — Seattle restaurants and bars must close or go takeout or delivery only

With the spread of COVID-19 continuing at a concerning pace and bars and many restaurants in busy neighborhoods like Capitol Hill still able to draw a crowd, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Sunday night he is calling for the temporary shutdown of restaurants, bars, and “entertainment facilities” across the state.

The governor said King County has agreed to implement the ban immediately.

The move follows two weeks of efforts to slow down the spread of COVID-19 that began with stern warnings, shifted to more aggressive restrictions, and how now ramped up to near a full shutdown of non-essential gathering places.

Bars that serve food and restaurants will be allowed to remain open for takeout and delivery. Groceries and pharmacies will also remain open.

CHS reported last week on the major downturn in business tallied by many Capitol Hill small businesses, restaurants, and bars as “social distancing” measures were being put in place and many patrons were choosing to stay home.

Despite the massive drop in business, growing number of venues developed ways to stay open and keep their employees and patrons healthy including shifting to takeout and delivery only strategies. Calls for patrons to purchase gift cards and gift certificates for use once the pandemic settles down have also helped.

Many others have closed — hopefully temporarily and larger venues like Neumos this weekend announced it was clearing its calendar for March.

UPDATE 10:00 PM: The repercussions will extend beyond clubs, bars, and restaurants. Sunday night, 10th Ave’s Elliott Bay Book Company announced it was closing its store to the public through March:

Because we feel at this time we cannot ensure compliance with the social distancing guidelines presented by the CDC, we have decided to close the store, effective immediately. We will be closed through March 31, and will evaluate whether we need to extend the closure at that time.

The store will continue to operate to fulfill orders and deliveries.

But still the neighborhood became a symbol for the stubbornness of many in Seattle who chose not to heed warnings about the danger of the virus and their part — even if healthy — in its spread:

In Seattle, where one hospital is reportedly preparing for Northern Italy levels of infection and already running low on some supplies, bars in the Capitol Hill neighborhood have been full of people. On Friday evening, a Twitter search for the phrase “the bars are packed” yielded hundreds of tweets from cities like Baltimore; Columbus, Ohio; Los Angeles and New York City. On Saturday in Chicago, one reporter tweeted a photo of a line around the block for a St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl at 8 a.m.

With the health risks, and society already paying a heavy price with major decisions like shuttering schools until late April, leaving the success of social distancing so solidly in the hands of individuals turned out to be impossible.

Inslee said the new prohibitions will also ban gatherings of more than 50 people dropping the threshold from the original “over 250” restriction. Inslee said earlier the restrictions would be “complaint based” and there would not be active enforcement to ensure venues are complying.

The Washington move follows the release of new recommendations from the Center for Disease Control that include a call to restrict gatherings of more than 50 people.

Sunday night left some Hill venue owners pleading with customers to heed warnings and not rush for one final drink at their favorite bars before the ban.

Earlier in the day, King County Public Health reported 32 new cases and two more deaths. So far, 37 have died in the county.

@LeiferMd’s daily update from King County Public Health

The economic impact of the shutdown and reduced service across the state will be massive.

The decision to force the business restrictions was not paired with any new announcements of financial relief like emergency tax rebates or subsidies.

Some were rushing to raise funds for efforts to help employees without work including the Seattle Hospitality Emergency Fund from two Seattle food and drink veterans — “a fund that can be accessed by workers whose hours have been curtailed because of this crisis and who are not being otherwise compensated.”

For workers, the safety net — for some, at least — is partly strengthened. Under emergency rules due to the outbreak, Washington workers will be able to receive unemployment benefits if an employer temporarily cuts back or shuts down because of employee illness or quarantine and employers will get relief of benefit charges. Standby — meaning workers do not need to meet job search requirements while they are unemployed — will be available for part-time workers as well as full-time workers — but they must meet a minimum of 680 hours in the past year.

The state has also temporarily reopened the state’s health insurance exchange to allow new sign-ups.

The new rules focus on unemployment claimants involved in situations requiring isolation or quarantine as a result of COVID-19. How the state will respond to the employment issues related to temporary and longterm closures due to the new events and gatherings requirements remains to be seen.

COVID-19 Response Fund has been started with help from Amazon and Microsoft to “help people disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus outbreak’s disruption of the economy” including “people who lack access to health insurance or sick leave, residents with limited English proficiency, communities of color, and health care and gig economy workers.”

Seattle has also moved to ban residential evictions during the outbreak response — though no restrictions on commercial properties were included.

Previously, CHS reported on what neighborhood small businesses were doing to prepare and efforts including a federal COVID-19 emergency program set to come online that will make some $7 billion in low interest loans available to business hit by the virus’s impact.

The city is also making $1.5 million in grants available to small business being hit by the outbreak:

Building on measures focused on supporting small businesses, Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced a $1.5 million City of Seattle fund to invest directly in small businesses financially impacted by COVID-19. The fund is an expansion of the Office of Economic Development’s (OED) Small Business Stabilization Fund, which the Mayor created to support small businesses whose operations were jeopardized by a destabilizing event.

“Eligible small businesses will receive a grant of up to $10,000 to mitigate revenue lost by COVID-19,” the City Hall announcement reads.

OED will immediately begin accepting applications for the expanded Small Business Stabilization Fund:

Eligible small businesses can apply by filling out a simple one-page form on OED’s website, and the City’s Small Business Liaisons will conduct targeted outreach and technical assistance to ensure historically underserved communities like immigrants and refugees, communities of color, and business owners who speak a language other than English apply. Once an eligible business owner applies, OED will send financial assistance within one week. Applications and grants for the Fund will continue on a rolling basis.

UPDATE: Here is the full announcement from the governor’s office:

Statewide closure of all on-site food or beverage services

Inslee announced the two-week ban on any food or beverage service, regardless of location, that provides or allows on-site consumption.

The ban will not apply to grocery stores and pharmacies.

The ban includes, but is not limited to,

  • Restaurants,
  • Food courts,
  • Bars and taverns,
  • Wine, beer and spirits tasting venues,
  • Doughnut shops and ice cream parlors,
  • Coffee shops and
  • Sit down airport restaurants and bars.

Take-out, delivery and drive-thru food and beverage services are not banned under the proclamation.

College and higher education campus dining halls are banned from providing on-site dining, but may provide take-out and delivery options. On-site food service and other related activities are permitted for childcare services and school-based food programs for K-12 schools.

Statewide guidance for social distancing in retail stores

Businesses are expected to ensure adequate environmental cleaning of stores and must designate an employee or officer to implement a social distancing plan for their business.

Once again, grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open under the emergency proclamation.

“The supply chain is strong,” Inslee said. “Grocery stores will continue operating and providing services to Washingtonians. There is no need to hoard food or supplies. Everyone needs to only buy what they need, and they need to remember when they overbuy, those things are taken away from their neighbors and others who need them now.”

Statewide closure of entertainment, leisure and non-essential services

Inslee also included entertainment, leisure and non-essential services in today’s emergency proclamation.

The ban includes, but is not limited to,

  • Theaters,
  • Bowling alleys,
  • Gyms and fitness centers,
  • Non-tribal card rooms,
  • Museums,
  • Art galleries,
  • Tattoo parlors,
  • Barbers, hair salons and nail salons.

Statewide ban on gatherings of 50 or larger

Inslee also announced a further executive order expanding on orders from last week. Last Friday, Inslee expanded the ban on events larger than 250 beyond the Puget Sound region to the entire state. Today, he announced the ban will decrease in size to prohibit all events of 50 or larger statewide.

Additionally, all gatherings with under 50 participants are prohibited unless criteria from the CDC for public health and social distancing are met.

“I am proud of how Washingtonians have stepped up and worked together,” Inslee said. “I know we still have long days ahead, but I know that together we will prevail and be a stronger state as a result. We will get through this together and life will return to normal, but the steps we are taking now will help us get back to normal sooner.

”I ask everyone to take these steps to protect themselves, their families and their communities. Everyone needs to play their part. “

Request to federal government on personal protective equipment

Earlier today, Inslee joined fellow governors on a call with President Trump and Vice President Pence. Inslee asked the administration to change how personal protective equipment (PPE) is allocated. Currently, PPE is allocated to each state equally, but Inslee made the case that allocations should be distributed according to need, in states like Washington, with high cases numbers and fatalities.


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2 years ago

The requirement for 680 hours of work may be tough for a lot of part timers. I know of folks who work in schools, drive buses, serve lunches etc that work less than 20 hrs a week in term time who are out for work and can’t claim. Typical Seattle to not relax the one rule that stops most from claiming but then talking about how much they are doing,..

2 years ago

Remember when you have no job blame Jay Inslee. The Democrats want this to effect the economy. The news is lying and making this out to be horrendous when you just need to be smart. Remember this when you vote.

2 years ago
Reply to  Mike

Or go look at news from Italy ? If you have a parent over 80 they will most likely day in an agonizing way drowning trying to breather, most likely in a tent in a car park outside a hospital. Their bodies will then be piled up for mass burial. Yup, nothing to worry about….

2 years ago
Reply to  Mike

How are the Democrats so much stronger than Orange Leader? He tells us every day that he’s a very stable genius, and how much smarter he is than doctors and scientists. How can Pelosi, Schumer and Inslee be destroying the economy that Trump told us he built with his own two hands?
What good is a president that can’t protect the USA from domestic terrorists like the Democrats?

2 years ago
Reply to  Mike

Mike, this kind of willful ignorance is going to get people killed. Shut up and Stay the Fuck Home. Are the republican governors of red stats part of your so called conspiracy? Are Italy, China and South Korea all complicit?


2 years ago
Reply to  Mike


It’s *affect* not *effect*. Be smart; learn words.

Also, STFU.

2 years ago
Reply to  Mike

Uh, no.

When I read the impending stories of elderly Republican science deniers in Florida unable to get ICU beds, I’ll be thinking of Inslee’s leadership all the way (and our more local heroes like Helen Chu of SFS.)

2 years ago

I fear for what this is going to do for the local economy and all the bars/restaurants, shops, etc. that make this neighborhood unique. All accounts point toward this pandemic not blowing over anytime soon and we haven’t even reached the peak, and with the economy just weeks away from tanking into a recession, we can expect a lot of local places closing for good.

We need a bailout package for both workers and small businesses. Hopefully people wake tf up and realize how flawed our system is for working people with no universal healthcare, no paid sick leave or childcare, etc.

2 years ago
Reply to  CapHillGay

Yeah. In all likelihood, the past few weeks was just the opening act for small business.

2 years ago

How about a listing of which restaurants are doing take-out and their hours? With the store shelves the way they are take-out works for me.

2 years ago

And yet the City of Seattle continues to require non-essential personnel to report for work daily. Strange days indeed.