According to a recent survey to the press by the Washington Hospitality Association, around 2,400 restaurants and bars in the state were permanently closed in the first six months that the COVID-19 pandemic hit the region. Of these, there were around 624 closings in Seattle alone, which corresponds to around 20 percent of all restaurants in the city according to information from the beginning of 2020. There were also 1,023 closings in King County of an estimated 5,920 restaurants. And that might just be the tip of the iceberg.
Seattle was by far the hardest hit area in the state, but the numbers mentioned could be even higher, the industry group warns. The survey was conducted in early fall, and many more restaurants have decided to close during the latest restrictions put in place by Governor Jay Inslee. Indoor service is prohibited until at least January 4th.
Overall, WHA estimates that 35 percent of all restaurants in Washington will close during the pandemic and 90 percent of the closed establishments will be independent. By comparison, the average annual wear and tear on restaurants is 16 percent nationwide, says Jacque Coe, WHA communications manager. It should be noted that the survey – which was conducted over the phone to contact every single restaurant in the state – is only an estimate, and WHA found that it was sometimes difficult to determine which restaurants were temporarily or permanently closed.
During a press conference on December 8th, not long after Inslee announced the extension of restrictions, WHA President and CEO Anthony Anton condemned the dining room closure, claiming that recent high COVID cases after Thanksgiving show restaurants weren’t the main problem. As with the first announcement of the restrictions, Anton referred to numbers from Clark, Pierce, and Walla Walla counties showing that less than half of 1 percent of COVID cases have been associated with restaurants. Inslee and state health officials pushed this study back, finding that the numbers reported are incomplete and inconsistent with other scientific data suggesting the effectiveness of limiting indoor eating and studies showing indoor eating have a Represents high risk activity.
Before Thanksgiving, COVID cases in Washington had already peaked during the pandemic. In most states, restaurants were 50 percent full. King County recently reported that 15 percent of people who tested positive over a two-month period this fall said they had been to a restaurant or diner prior to the onset of the disease (the report does not include people ordering takeout , and the data is limited to gaps in contact tracing due to the limited number). Since the pandemic began, restaurants outside of healthcare facilities have seen the second highest number of outbreaks in King County, including 40 in the 60 days leading up to the report’s release.
Regardless of how the new restrictions may affect the total number of COVID cases here and in the Washington area, WHA’s economic data is still sobering. The high number of restaurant closings again speaks to the urgency of a more comprehensive relief of the industry, which up to this point was insufficient, although a further USD 50 million was recently announced by the state in addition to the previously announced USD 135 million (with part of it for Small Business Grants). Anton said the latest shutdown could cost the hotel industry’s restaurant side $ 800 million over four weeks and result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.