Hospitality industry needs workers, patience as state reopens

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The Veggie Grill restaurant in Seattle. (Photo by Karen Ducey / Getty Images)

About 16 months after the coronavirus pandemic began in Washington, the state reopens fully on Wednesday.

The reopening means that the hospitality industry is no longer limited by capacity rules. The closure in March 2020 left restaurants only able to serve customers at the curb, then with 25% capacity and strict social distancing rules, and finally 50% capacity.

Washington reopens on Wednesday, but what does that mean?

At least one restaurant in Washington defied the order. The owner of Spiffy in Chehalis told Dori Monson of KIRO Radio that he will remain open, despite visits from L&I and the threat of fines. He faced nearly $ 150,000 in fines and was issued a temporary injunction.

Some L&I law enforcement officers told KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula that they had received death threats, insulted and even kicked out of restaurants when they showed up to do their jobs and enforce state COVID restrictions.

But that all ends from Wednesday, when only large indoor events are subject to a 75% capacity rule if proof of vaccination is not required.

“Tomorrow is that day we talked about 16 months ago,” Anthony Antone, director of the Washington State Hospitality Association, said at a press conference Tuesday. He added that closures and capacity limits have largely crippled his industry.

“The numbers for 2020, these came out of the Revenue Department last week… restaurants in the second three quarters of the year, restaurants are down 41%,” Antone said. He added that bars fell 57.5% and hotels fell 61.3%.

But now the hospitality industry is looking for people to work.

“We have lost almost all of our workforce in the space of a year, we are still short of 80,000 workers,” said Antone.

And that requires customers to be patient.

“We are showing grace to the workers who are there,” said Antone. “Either they learn a new job or they work for two people trying to welcome you back to Washington to get us going. “

The sign of help sought came out.

Timeline: A look back at Washington State’s response to COVID-19

“Going out to see your favorite places in Washington this year will be huge as international travel and interstate travel is likely to fall behind for a few years,” Antone said. “Our tourist effort is going to be really important to bring our accommodation back to normal.”

Anton said he was grateful for all the take out orders.

The editorial staff of KIRO Radio contributed to this report.



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