EVERETT — Crashing pins and chirping competitors returned Monday to Evergreen Lanes in Everett, on a day of baby steps toward life’s treasured routines: a hearty breakfast at the local diner, a matinee, even a dreaded 7-10 split.
The bowling alley, restaurants and other venues across the Puget Sound were allowed to open at 25% capacity as Snohomish, King and Pierce counties moved to Phase 2 of the “Healthy Washington” COVID-19 recovery plan.
Ten weeks after the most recent set of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions took effect, Evergreen Lanes was able to reopen for limited-capacity indoor operations.
Many of Evergreen’s bowlers frequent the lanes for exercise and to socialize. Dennis Shewey, 67, of Arlington, has come multiple times a week for the past 12 years. He’s glad to be back.
“I’m not worried about it, because of the way they’re taking care of the lanes and cleaning up after each league,” he said.
The Puget Sound and West regions, as outlined in Gov. Jay Inslee’s statewide reopening plan, were the only two regions of Washington to advance to Phase 2. The other six regions must remain in Phase 1 until they are determined to have met the necessary criteria to advance, including reports of a slowed trend in 14-day rates of new COVID-19 cases and new hospital admissions per 100,000 people.
Jason Hoff, Evergreen Lanes owner, said that much like other small businesses around the state, the bowling alley took a financial blow.
“What we’re doing right now at limited-capacity has at least the potential to break even, which is a whole lot better than hemorrhaging money, which is what we were doing during the shutdown,” he said. “What people don’t realize is it’s not just your income being taken away when you’re a business owner, but you have fixed expenses that don’t go away. The cost to operate a bowling center, even if you have the doors closed, could be $20 to $30 grand a month.”
Hundreds of restaurants around the state were also permitted to reopen for 25% capacity indoor service Monday. That was a relief for Kate’s Greek & American Deli in downtown Everett.
Holly Lawing, manager of Kate’s, said her restaurant had to close its doors altogether during the lockdown, because without indoor dining, the restaurant was operating at a loss.
“We’re primarily a breakfast place, and eggs don’t necessarily travel as well in a box compared to pizzas and things like that,” she said. “Some places already had to-go clientele that they relied on, but we just weren’t in that boat.”
Like Kate’s, Razzals Sports Bar & Grill in Lake Stevens opted to close its doors in November.
On Monday, the televisions were turned on and customers chatted like old friends as service returned. Bartender Ashley Coltrain said the staff couldn’t wait to reconnect with regular customers.
A half-dozen patrons dined and imbibed during the lunch hour.
At 25% capacity, the restaurant seats about 65. Coltrain said she’s grateful for the customers they get and will pray the region doesn’t regress.
“In two weeks, when (Gov. Inslee) checks the numbers, he could tell us we are closed down again,” she said. “We are just at the mercy of whatever they tell us.”
At Bruno’s Pizzeria in Lake Stevens, owner Taylor Gallagher said the 30-customer occupancy allowed by indoor dining isn’t nearly enough to survive.
“We need to open, that’s the bottom line,” he said. “We can’t sustain at 25%. No one can.”
Despite faithful customers willing to dine outdoors and a food that travels well for take-out, Gallagher said the closure was an uphill fight at an awful time, ahead of the holiday season.
If the governor were to order indoor dining to close again, Gallagher said he may refuse to shut down and hopes other people would fight too.
“We are not going to continue to yo-yo our staff and our customers and our businesses,” Gallagher said. “It’s time to make some critical decisions and that would be one of them.”
Across the street at Pho Lucky Dragon Restaurant, the end to the indoor-dining lockdown couldn’t come soon enough.
Manager Hayden Hong said the winter months are typically the restaurant’s most profitable. With no place for outdoor dining and a food like pho that is best eaten hot and fresh, business has dropped 50%.
“We try to fatten up around this time and try to survive the summer,” he said. “Now, we are like a bear who can’t fatten up, so I don’t know how we are going to survive.”
Still, Hong is expecting another government-mandated closure. He agrees with the measures to keep everyone safe, but said there are still payments to be made.
“The rent stays the same, it doesn’t matter if business is bad or good,” Hong said. “Eventually, if business keeps going down, we’ll end up with a negative number and have to close.”
Movie theaters are also set to reopen, but it may be a while before blockbusters are back on the big screen.
Chris Mayes, general manager for the Edmonds Theater, anticipates an early May debut for new movies delayed by the pandemic like Marvel’s “Black Widow” or James Bond’s next flick, “No Time to Die.”
In the meantime, Mayes said he is still considering options for showing smaller independent films, or more likely, an abbreviated schedule of classic movies on weekends.
The 98-year-old theater was just days away from playing new films, when Inslee announced November’s lockdown. Profits in December plummeted 75% from where they were during 2019, Mayes said.
“It’s been really difficult these past few months,” he said.
At 25% capacity, the theater can fit more than 50 people, but Mayes said food sales will be the real money maker. In September, the Edmonds Theater began selling popcorn on weekends to help make ends meet.
Mayes said he’s open to creative ways to use the space while the box office is limited. He said a church is using the theater for Sunday service and offered other ideas like playing video games on the big screen.
“I guess, just don’t assume that those businesses are going to be there,” Mayes said. “I want to be upbeat, but I can’t guarantee anything.”
Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; email@example.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.