Seattle restaurants only started dinner again a few days ago, but there are already some people out eating and drinking like old times. Whether this makes sense in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic remains a threat, depends on risk tolerance.
King County officially entered Phase 1.5 of Washington’s “Safe Start” plan last Friday after sticking to take-out and delivery-only for nearly three months. Indoor seating is now allowed at 25 percent capacity and outdoor seating is now allowed at 50 percent. According to the new guidelines, all tables and chairs indoors and outdoors must be two meters apart.
Restaurants – in addition to bars, breweries, and wineries that serve food – must also adhere to other safety guidelines set by the state. This includes providing hand sanitizer in easily accessible locations, providing disposable menus, and ensuring that all employees are wearing masks. While guests are not required to wear face coverings, Governor Jay Inslee has stated that companies can refuse service to customers who do not wear them without legal ramifications – and public health officials strongly recommend wearing masks to prevent the spread of health Contain COVID. 19th
This weekend there were a number of guests in some parts of the city. Despite the capacity constraints, the rustic Italian restaurant San Fermo in Ballard drew a steady stream of customers on a sunny Saturday afternoon, who took their seats on the patio as well as on the patio. Co-owner Tim Baker told Eater Seattle that “the architecture works in its favor” as there are many nooks and crannies that tables can naturally separate to encourage social distancing. Due to capacity concerns, the San Fermo staff turned the tables as quickly as possible. There are no reservations at the moment – first come, first served and take out is still available.
San Fermo in Ballard had a steady stream of customers this weekend. Suzi Pratt
King County’s rules state that tables must be at least three feet apart. Suzi Pratt
Ballard breweries and bars have also reopened, albeit on a somewhat staggered timeline. The Nordic-influenced Skal Beer Hall took reservations on Saturday and had more of a quiet reopening of “friends and family” welcomed into members of their beer club just to understand the minutes. And many breweries in the neighborhood have developed their own common guidelines (based on Washington’s Safe Start plan) that require guests to bus their own tables, customers wear masks, and scan QR codes for tracking visits to record.
In Fremont, people stood in line for hours outside Fremont Brewing, waiting for a seat in the outdoor beer garden. But even if the terrace seemed to encourage social distancing, the line itself was a little tight, causing the brewery to rethink how everything should be arranged in the future to make more space. To-go orders are also carried out.
Still, those who waited didn’t seem too concerned. “Even if we have to sit further away, it’s just so nice to see people having fun and enjoying themselves,” said one customer, Mark Lee. “The sun probably helps a little.”
In general, there has been a learning curve where some restaurants have already made adjustments. El Camino Mexican restaurant briefly opened its dining room and back terrace on Saturday (and had a lot of diners), but quickly closed it again due to concerns from staff and went back for takeout and delivery.
“We’ve been gradually redesigning our entire restaurant over the past three months for our above-expected take-away sales,” says General Manager Nathan Yagi-Stanton. “So we need more time to undo a lot of what we did for table service. But all but two of our team members are BIPOC and have been emotionally exhausted from everything that’s going on across the country and locally here in Seattle. That’s why we’re closed on Sunday. “
El Camino opened on Saturday but only fulfills takeaway and delivery orders. Suzi Pratt
The outside terrace at El Camino Suzi Pratt
Down in the international district, the legendary Pho Bac Sup Shop was still cleaning up after damage to the shop front during the recent protests, but co-owner Yenvy Pham and her siblings still opened the dining room at 25 percent capacity – and appeared to have an organized system ready.
On Tuesday evening there was a makeshift stand near the main entrance, where both takeaway orders and requests for walk-in tables were taken (no menus at tables). The servers could either place the orders at the front or bring seated customers to them. Disposable chopsticks and spoons as well as a pre-filled water glass were available at each table. Masked waiters with gloves brought out pho pods and part of the restaurant was completely closed.
Still, like other places mentioned here, Pho Bac hasn’t given up on leaving and taking away. The Pho Mobile – a converted old traffic surveillance vehicle – was still puttering around in the neighborhood. There was even a message that seems to be in line with the current mood in Seattle.