Chef Tamara Murphy designed Terra Plata’s business model around sit-down, full capacity dining. With COVID-19’s looming presence, the stability of this model is now shaky and Murphy is looking into new ways the Capitol Hill “Earth to Plate” concept restaurant can stay afloat.
“The thing about Terra Plata is we have something that so many people don’t have: an open air, beautiful space,” Murphy said. “Honestly people don’t look at us as a take-out place, so we have to work really hard at putting that together and we’re going to because I assume that we’re going to have to shut down at some point again.”
This week, meanwhile, begins a statewide mandate for businesses to require customers to wear face coverings — except when eating and drinking — as the spread of the virus continues in Washington and across the country. Other industries around the Hill are adjusting — and reopening. CHS visited with a few examples from the neighborhood’s hair salons last week.
Terra Plata has reopened with limited capacity above Melrose, seating patrons mostly on the rooftop deck and adjusting to a host of reopening safety guidelines, according to Murphy. After nearly nine years of solely in-person dining, Terra Plata now offers to-go meals for curbside pickup and delivery via Caviar — selling cocktail kits, “Heat @ Home” meals, and ready-to-eat dishes like the Terra Plata Burger.
Restaurants began gradually reopening in June once limited capacity dining-in was approved as part of the state’s phased reopening plan, and restaurants are now allowed 50% indoor and outdoor occupancy. In the interim period between the state-mandated closure and businesses reopening, many restaurants transitioned entirely to takeout and delivery options.
Terra Plata, on the other hand, wasn’t a part of any food delivery services and Murphy designed the restaurant’s business model around the space being full with customers. Since reopening, Murphy says they’ve sat between 20-30 people at one time on the rooftop space that has the capacity for 80-100 patrons.
“Good is not good until we can seat at full capacity because that’s what restaurants are built on,” Murphy said, noting the struggles of keeping the business running on limited capacity dining-in and to-go services.
During its COVID-19 closure, Terra Plata started the Food is Love project, preparing meals for low-income families. At the same time, Murphy says her and business partner Linda Di Lello Morton worked to streamline their menu for takeout and spent time remodeling the space, refinishing surfaces and enhancing the rooftop edible garden. On Friday, Gov. Inslee tightened reopening restrictions, calling on businesses to enforce the state-mandated mask requirement by turning away unmasked customers.
“Full service restaurants are not about the food you serve, it’s about the community. It’s about people gathering together,” Murphy said. ‘”We just want to support all of our other restaurant friends and somehow get through this.”
Terra Plata is located at 1501 Melrose Ave. You can learn more at terraplata.com.
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