Izzy Sharp clears a table Saturday morning at Shawn O’Donnell’s American Grill and Irish Pub in Everett. The eatery’s owner reports a 26% drop in business because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Izzy Sharp clears a table Saturday morning at Shawn O’Donnell’s American Grill and Irish Pub in Everett. The eatery’s owner reports a 26% drop in business because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Coronavirus outbreak takes toll on Snohomish County restaurants

With the spread of the virus, Shawn O’Donnell’s American Grill and Irish Pub has seen a steep drop in business.

St. Patrick’s Day won’t be the same at Shawn O’Donnell’s American Grill and Irish Pub in Everett this year.

It’s like Christmas Day for the restaurant, with Irish dancers, face painting and folks in leprechaun costumes. The beer garden, held in a pop-up tent, attracts up to 600 imbibers.

But on March 17, there will be none of that — only a few bagpipers. The spread of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, has changed owner Shawn O’Donnell’s plans.

“We’re in full hunker-down mode,” he said. “We’re still going to be open on St. Patrick’s Day and we’ll still have a crowd, but we’re not promoting it. It doesn’t look right to do that.”

O’Donnell is referring to the increased likelihood of the virus being transmitted with the gathering. There are at least 136 confirmed cases statewide as of Monday, including 41 confirmed or presumed positive in Snohomish County.

The outbreak is taking a toll on the restaurant business. Even though coronavirus isn’t a food-borne illness, restaurant owners say they suspect some fear becoming infected at public places.

Extra cleaning and disinfecting at Shawn O’Donnell’s has done little to quell that fear. O’Donnell said it’s hard to blame anyone for being cautious, especially given Gov. Jay Inslee’s recent recommendations that Washingtonians keep their distance from others and avoid social gatherings.

“It does no good to downplay it,” O’Donnell said. “It only does good to fight it.”

O’Donnell has restaurants in Everett, Seattle and Spokane. In just the past 12 days, sales at the Everett location dropped 26%. The hit is even harder in Seattle, where business at one of his two Emerald City pubs is down by 70%, O’Donnell said.

“The one in Pioneer Square is plain empty,” he said.

O’Donnell, of Mukilteo, said the string of slow days has forced him to figure out how to trim expenses. He doesn’t plan to lay off anybody in Everett, but concedes layoffs may be necessary at the Pioneer Square location.

“These restaurant (workers) don’t have a lot of cash reserved,” he said. “They can’t afford to not work tomorrow.”

In Bothell, Russell’s Restaurant & Bar owner Russell Lowell is dealing with a similar predicament. He’s had to reduce hours for his employees to compensate for fewer customers.

“We’re going to a skeleton crew,” he said. “What do you do? You have to cut it down.”

While business is slower than usual at Russell’s, Lowell says his steady customer base will keep him afloat. He worries other restaurants won’t be as lucky.

“I know for certain there are going to be restaurants that close their doors for good,” he said. “They live week by week. They will not be able to survive this.”

Lowell, of Mill Creek, said paying state taxes will be even more of a challenge for restaurant owners now. The governor’s office recently announced the Department of Revenue is working with businesses that request extensions on tax filings because of coronavirus.

Lowell has continued putting on events. Last week, Russell’s held a winemaker event that was attended by 120 diners. He said patrons should assess the risks involved with being around crowds — especially those over the age of 60 and those with underlying medical conditions — but not make every decision based on fear.

“I’d encourage people to be careful,” he said. “I’d also encourage people not to give up on their lives.”

Fear about contracting coronavirus manifests in different ways. Chung Tran, owner of Pho Asia Noodle House in Everett, said locals have associated his Vietnamese restaurant with the virus that showed up in China.

“People are afraid,” he said.

Customers usually flock to his restaurant in wintertime to eat pho, a hearty soup. But fewer are coming through the door than in the past three years he’s owned the restaurant.

“The cold weather is good for us this time of year,” he said. “But a lot people have been trying to avoid the public.”

The Daily Herald contacted about 20 Asian restaurants. Pho Asia Noodle House was the only to report that the outbreak had affected business.

O’Donnell said he hopes the virus will soon pass. But he worries that things will get worse before they get better.

“The thing that is most troubling about all this is the uncertainty,” he said. “We’re trying to make decisions, and it’s hard to when we don’t know whether this is going to blow over in two weeks or if it’s something we’re going to be dealing with for longer.”

Talk to us

More in Life

CloZee performs during the second day of Summer Meltdown on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Darrington, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The psychedelic fest Summer Meltdown is back — and in Monroe

The music and camping event is on for July 28-31, with a new venue along the Skykomish River.

Veteran Keith F. Reyes, 64, gets his monthly pedicure at Nail Flare on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021 in Stanwood, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No more gnarly feet: This ‘Wounded Warrior’ gets pedicures

Keith Reyes, 64, visits a Stanwood nail salon for “foot treatments” that help soothe blast injuries.

Enumclaw, the band
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Most of these venues require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or negative… Continue reading

Does this ring a “Belle”? Storied anime writer-director Mamoru Hosoda’s newest resets “Beauty and the Beast” in a musical, virtual environment — among other modern twists. (GKIDS/TNS)
‘Belle’ is striking virtual reality riff on ‘Beauty and the Beast’

In it, ‘Beauty’ is the charismatic online avatar of a moody teenager that attracts the attention of a bruised and brooding Beast

"Redeeming Love"
Movie review: ‘Redeeming Love’ doesn’t yield cinematic riches

The story, about a sex worker “redeemed” by a folksy farmer in Gold Rush-era California, is creepy “tradwife” fan fiction.

Eggs Florentine
Baked Eggs Florentine: A brunch favorite inspired by a queen

The kitchen manager at Quil Ceda Creek Casino shares a dish that pays homage to a spinach-crazy 16th century monarch.

Jennifer Bardsley, author of her newest book Good Catch, at her home on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021 in Edmonds, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds author transitions from young adult novels to romance

Jennifer Bardsley’s “Good Catch” is set in an Edmonds-like town. Spoiler alert: There’s a happy ending.

Caption: They might be too old for lunch box notes, but teenagers benefit from TLC too.
Fun ways to show the teens in your life that you care

The teen years can be challenging but they don’t last long. A little bit of extra attention can go a long way.

This easy-to-make spinach and mushroom quiche is perfect for a light dinner or fancy brunch. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Gretchen’s table: A spinach-mushroom quiche with cheesy goodness

The savory egg custard baked in a pie crust is easy to make — especially if you use a refrigerated crust.

Most Read