EVERETT — It had been 470 days since Shawn O’Donnell’s in south Everett operated at full capacity, but that changed Wednesday.
Glasses clinked and staff buzzed throughout the jam-packed restaurant floor, where customers filled every table and most bar stools.
“There was a lot of really good energy and mojo in the restaurant,” manager Kristen Nannery said. “It was noisy and sounded like a lively Irish pub should.”
Across Snohomish County, restaurants, bars and other businesses are back at full capacity, following the drop of COVID-19 restrictions earlier this week.
In Mukilteo, the Diamond Knot Brewery & Alehouse reopened fully Wednesday at 11 a.m. and has seen a steady flow of customers ever since, operations manager Korey MacKenzie said.
“It means the world being back at 100%,” he said. “Revenue per square foot is an important metric in the restaurant business, so having unused square footage makes it very challenging.”
MacKenzie is expecting a busy Fourth of July weekend at the restaurant and bar, he said, where pre-pandemic regulars are returning and new customers are eager to get out of the house.
“I think a great restaurant is sort of like a community hub where people can break bread and socialize,” he said. “People are excited to sit next to someone they’ve never met before at the bar top and share a story.”
With the switch flipped to full capacity, some restaurants are asking people to be patient as finding new staff remains an issue.
That’s not the case at Diamond Knot, MacKenzie said.
“We saw this challenge and got really creative, spending a lot of time finding applicants,” he said. “We’re finding people and we’re feeling a really positive vibe.”
But some businesses are opting to ease back into pre-COVID capacity.
Early on in the pandemic, Langley on Whidbey Island issued a proclamation to mask up, even while outdoors.
The artsy seaside village is a popular day trip for tourists from mainland areas with higher infection rates than the island. Today, some businesses still require face coverings be worn.
At the Ott & Hunter wine tasting room on First Street, the plan is to remain at reduced capacity in the venue with panoramic views of Saratoga Passage and beyond.
“We like taking things slow,” server Tami Smith said. “We have less tables. We like the setup we have. We get to interact with people. People come here to taste the wine. We can talk to them about the wine. They like it. We like that.”
Live music starts up on Saturdays next week. And wine sales during the last year helped make up for the loss of patronage.
“We are fortunate that we had a nice strong wine club,” Smith said.
It’s not just restaurants and bars feeling the relief of Wednesday’s reopening.
Pandemic-related restrictions pretty much erased the 2020 wedding season as couples postponed nuptials or at least the parties. That put vendors out of work and left venues unused.
Even applications for marriage licenses plummeted in Snohomish County.
But now they’re on the rebound. There were a total of 1,067 applications filed between April 1 and June 30, up from 760 in the same period in 2020.
And more applications means more weddings.
“Everybody is excited about being back. But there is some caution,” said PJ Parsons of Snohomish, owner of PJ Parsons Presents, a combination DJ, emcee and day-of-wedding coordinator operation.
“We’ve got a little bit of trauma response because this was so scary and out of our control,” she said of the industry. “We are watching the news. We know it is not over. But right now we are going to get people working again.”
Some vendors face a lack of bartenders and catering staff.
It’s not because the pay is too low, Parsons said. Rather, folks who had those jobs had to pivot to other means of employment in the pandemic so “there are just not bodies available right now.”
The state’s reopening also means fewer safety rules for religious services.
But that didn’t matter at The Pursuit NW church in Snohomish because its leaders ignored them. A letter from the state Department of Health in the Spring didn’t change their minds.
“We’ve identified as reopening for the last year-and-a-half,” said Russell Johnson, the lead pastor. “We don’t serve the state. Jay Inslee’s opinion on how the church conducts its business means absolutely nothing to me.”
At Temple Beth Or in Everett, congregants have spent the past 16 months worshiping and celebrating over Zoom. Now, they are moving earnestly and patiently to resume services in-person as early as mid-July.
“The last thing any of us would want to do is jeopardize the health and safety of anyone in our community,” said Rabbi Rachel Kort noting that a rule in the Jewish tradition says “the greatest obligation we have is to protect human life.”
Online services will continue to be available as well.
“As we look out to the High Holy Days, we are really making sure we have multiple means of access for our community,” she said.
Herald writer Andrea Brown contributed to this report.
Jerry Cornfield: email@example.com; @dospueblos