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

Rich Davis works on finishing the deck of his home in Mukilteo on June 11. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Mukilteo man’s pandemic project: A 500-square-foot deck

Rich Davis had never built anything before, but the shutdown left him with ample time to learn a new skill.

It only takes a small amount of cash to build a homemade swamp cooler to make your home comfortable this summer. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Can a do-it-yourself swamp cooler beat the August heat?

Instead of spending $400 for an air conditioner, purchase $25 of simple parts and assemble one yourself.

Oslo’s City Hall, with stirring murals and art that depict Norway’s history. (Rick Steves, Rick Steves’ Europe)
Rick Steves on Oslo, the polar opposite of ‘Big Box’ culture

The Norwegian capital city is expensive, but its charm and civility are priceless.

Also known as Rose of Sharon, hibiscus is a hardy shrub is one of the few that blooms in the late summer. (Nicole Phillips)
Hibiscus will bring a tropical look to your August garden

Also known as Rose of Sharon, the hardy shrub is one of the few that blooms in the late summer.

Dave Dodge stands on a speaker while playing his guitar during Nite Wave’s show at Tony V’s Garage on Saturday, June 8, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Curtain falls on Tony V’s in Everett — at least for now

The nightspot was hit hard by the coronavirus epidemic. It might reopen when the county hits Phase 4 of the state reopening plan.

Lennon Wiltbank’s art adorns an abandoned, soon-to-be-demolished home and spreads joy in her neighborhood.
For this Bothell artist, ‘happiness is flowers’

Lennon Wiltbank’s art adorns an abandoned, soon-to-be-demolished home and spreads joy in her neighborhood.

Glacier Lanes won’t be spared: Owners decide to close forever

Bowlers statewide are rallying to open venues shut by COVID rules, but this Everett business isn’t waiting.

Practice the art of doing nothing to nurture inner peace

It’s the ability to sit, listen to the sounds of nature, look at nothing in particular, and just be.

The Sauk River rushes by near a popular boat launch area close to White Chuck Mountain off the Mountain Loop Highway, just outside of Darrington. (Daniella Beccaria / Herald file)
Outdoors classes and activities around Snohomish County

Some of the events listed here are contingent on whether each jurisdiction… Continue reading

Most Read