Server Kelly King talks with diners Suzan Nettleship, Bill Zama and Rodger Scheibner as they enjoy a last restaurant meal indoors at Sol Food on Monday in Everett before restrictions are in place. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Server Kelly King talks with diners Suzan Nettleship, Bill Zama and Rodger Scheibner as they enjoy a last restaurant meal indoors at Sol Food on Monday in Everett before restrictions are in place. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

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Businesses brace for another round of COVID restrictions

They survived the closures in the spring but worry about what lies ahead as the infection spreads.

EVERETT — At Kate’s Greek & American Deli in downtown Everett, patrons are accustomed to sitting down, sipping coffee and staying a while, but a second shutdown of indoor dining has manager Holly Lawing fearing the weeks ahead.

“It’s probably going to be a hard time for Kate’s,” she said.

On Sunday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the state would enter a four-week lockdown of certain businesses and commerce to curb transmission of the coronavirus.

Indoor service at bars is prohibited starting Tuesday morning, grocery stores and retailers are limited to 25% occupancy, gyms and fitness centers cannot host indoor activities, and other amenities and entertainments face shutdowns or capacity restrictions. The indoor service restrictions hit restaurants Wednesday morning.

The Tulalip Tribes will not close casinos but will implement new measures to protect guests.

Anthony Anton, president of the Washington Hospitality Association, warned Friday that another shutdown could cost his industry 100,000 jobs statewide.

“People who are gathering with friends and families are making it harder for restaurants to stay open,” Anton said at a news conference. “Wearing your mask can save a small business.”

Inslee’s directive comes as COVID-19 cases in Snohomish County continue to reach troubling new highs.

In a two-week period that ended Saturday, there were 280 new infections per 100,000 county residents, according to Snohomish Health District data. The previous record — reported last week — was 187.

Throughout the first two waves of the virus, the two-week rate never exceeded 129 cases per 100,000 residents.

Meanwhile, other key COVID metrics, including the percentage of tests coming back positive as well as hospitalizations and deaths from the virus, are also on the rise.

As of Monday, at least 53 people were in Snohomish County hospitals because of COVID, health district spokesperson Heather Thomas said.

At Sol Food on Hewitt Avenue in Everett, owner Khristina Hernandez is worried the end of indoor service may be the start of a slow, painful death for her business if the four-week shutdown is eventually extended.

The last time indoor services were interrupted, Hernandez said takeout wasn’t profitable at Sol Food and the restaurant temporarily shut down. With a limited menu, she hopes to find more success this go-round, but she still anticipates having to layoff 75% of her staff.

“I just don’t feel like they are really thinking about how it affects people,” she said.

Hernandez said it’s been difficult navigating what’s allowed with guidance that continues to change. It is frustrating, she said, to receive limited support from local, state and federal officials.

The Tulalip Tribes, a sovereign nation not subject to the governor’s order, nonetheless announced on Monday that they will significantly curtail casino operations.

“We are not closing down, we are scaling back and taking precautions,” tribal Chairwoman Teri Gobin wrote in a letter outlining steps aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.

Among other things, gaming areas will be 100% smoke-free inside, with reduced capacity. Dining will be reduced to 25% capacity indoors, and diners’ names will be logged for COVID tracing.

The changes will extend beyond gaming. Retail operations will be reduced to 25% capacity and customers’ names in hair and nail salons will be logged for contact tracing.

Gobin urged people to refrain from gatherings at home, except for those who live there.

“We know this will be a rough Thanksgiving and possibly Christmas, but we need to do our part to stop the spread,” she wrote.

In Snohomish, Lori Powell Warren, owner of Remember When Antique Mall, said she’s worried about a lull in shopping despite the holiday season. Sundays are usually her busiest day, but after Inslee’s announcement, Warren said, her store was quiet.

She’s concerned the new guidance might be scaring customers away.

“This is our biggest time of year, we need people in here,” she said.

Back on Colby Avenue in Everett, at Kate’s Greek & American Deli, Lawing said the next month will be spent keeping everything afloat.

The restaurant struggled to recoup after closing during the first wave of shutdowns in the spring. Lawing said she doesn’t want to lose momentum from the rebound the restaurant has made. She said the restaurant plans to expand the menu of items people can purchase in advance and reheat at home.

“It means changing a portion of our entire business model,” Lawing said. “We’ve been breakfast and lunch for almost 20 years, and unfortunately breakfast just doesn’t look as nice in the box when it comes home.”

Lawing said she understands the need to close indoor operations, but that doesn’t make it any easier to tell her employees that the restaurant may not be able to support them.

“Even though they say four weeks, there really is no guarantee,” she said.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.

Ian Davis-Leonard reports on working class issues through Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. To support Ian’s work at The Daily Herald with a tax-deductible donation, go to www.heraldnet.com/support.

Correction: An earlier version misstated when the the state’s guidelines for restaurants begin. Indoor service is prohibited for restaurants starting Wednesday morning.

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