Eager diners waited for tables to open up at WaterFire and Cowiche Canyon Kitchen as the restaurants reached their limited seating capacities Tuesday night.
Andrew and Sydney Daley went to Cowiche for what they called “one last hurrah” before the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions went into effect at midnight. They joined many others in showing their support for local businesses facing intense pressure as the number of coronavirus cases in Yakima County and throughout Washington keeps growing.
“It’s hard to transition back after being allowed to slowly open back up,” said Sydney, who joined her husband in moving back to Yakima from Las Vegas in March. “I totally understand wanting to keep everybody safe and healthy as much as we possibly can, but it’s just so hard to watch people be crippled by the effects of it.”
The latest rules announced Sunday by Gov. Jay Inslee prohibit indoor dining at restaurants for at least four weeks. Outdoor dining will still be allowed with social distancing guidelines and a limit of five people per table.
Provisions hopes to take advantage of that measure by adding overhead covers to go along with a fireplace on the patio. They’ll also continue to offer takeout and the market will stay open while implementing stricter capacity restrictions.
Cowiche Canyon co-owner Mark DiPietro said they plan to completely close but will be ready to open Dec. 14 if possible. The restaurant offered $1 drafts all day Tuesday and Second Street Grill advertised a similar $10 deal on growlers to try to avoid wasting beer.
WaterFire executive chef Derrin Davis said he anticipates more of the community support he’s seen over the last few months, including when the state first closed indoor dining in April. Ted and Pam Durfey made last-minute plans to drive all the way up from Zillah to go to Public House of Yakima and then WaterFire — one of their favorite Yakima restaurants — before the new rules went into effect on Tuesday.
“It’s not OK,” Pam Durfey said, noting health officials have said coronavirus spread occurs mostly at unregulated social gatherings rather than public spaces such as restaurants. “ How do we expect these businesses to stay above water? It’s not fair.”
Congress failed to pass any financial measures similar to bills earlier this year that allowed small businesses to obtain grants and expanded unemployed benefits. Those expired months ago, leaving restaurants with limited options as some state legislators called for a special session to pass an economic relief package.
Yakima offered a total of $480,000 in mostly federal funds to 70 small businesses back in September. Toppenish, Grandview and Selah were among the cities to offer small business grants through the federal CARES act.
Sub Shop had already closed off its indoor seating Tuesday afternoon as staff continued to make to-go sandwiches for customers. Owner Kathi Bonlender said they received a $10,000 small business grant and plan to keep their normal hours.
“This is out of the ordinary and I wish we could stay with the Phase 2 opening, but I know it’s needed,” Bonlender said, adding Sub Shop intends to participate in a Small Business Saturday event scheduled for Nov. 28.
Things won’t change much at Essencia, although they will feel some effects since they supply goods for a handful of local restaurants. Owner Mike Lowe said the bakery never opened its indoor seating and only briefly allowed people to sit outdoors before deciding it wasn’t worth the extra hassle to ensure staff and customers followed strict protocols for sanitization and social distancing.
“We will keep doing what we’re doing,” said Lowe, who estimated through takeout they’ve retained about 65-70% of their normal business since July. “I understand the need to do it. It’s got to be so detrimental to the restaurants.”