Democratic lawmakers ask Inslee to lift ban on indoor dining

They want to try to scaling back on occupancy before forcing an end to inside service.

Steve Hobbs

Steve Hobbs

OLYMPIA — A group of Democratic state lawmakers wants Gov. Jay Inslee to consider replacing his ban on indoor dining with stricter limits on how many people restaurants and bars can serve inside at any one time.

Seven senators and two representatives sent Inslee a letter Monday in which they agreed on the need to respond to a recent explosion in coronavirus infections. But, they wrote, shutting down indoor service “is not the right first step” because it will put thousands out of work and damage the food service and accommodation industry.

“While we understand that the current trajectory of COVID cases is unsustainable and that a pullback is necessary and appropriate to save lives, the impacts of this specific measure will leave lasting holes in the economic and cultural fabric of every community across the state,” reads the letter, which was delivered to the governor Monday.

They ask the governor to consider letting restaurants operate at 25% of their indoor capacity. They also suggest that he reinstate limits on how many people can sit at one table and require only people from the same household to eat together.

Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, who owns a pizza restaurant, authored the letter. Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, signed on. So, too, did Sens. Christine Rolfes of Bainbridge Island, chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and Rebecca Saldana of Seattle, the Senate deputy majority leader.

“We’ve got to try to find a compromise here,” Hobbs said. “We don’t want the pandemic to spread. We don’t want businesses to fail. This could be a solution.”

Inslee imposed the ban on indoor seating Sunday, along with several other restrictions intended to slow and reverse the rise in new cases. Those measures include the closure of gyms, bowling alleys, movie theaters and indoor activities at museums, aquariums and zoos. Attendance at weddings and funerals is capped at 30 people, and no receptions are allowed.

All the restrictions, including the indoor seating prohibition, are in effect through Dec. 14. Restaurants can still do takeout and serve customers outdoors at tables with a limit of five people.

The governor has said he will work with lawmakers to ease the impact on workers. He’s also announced he will use $50 million of the state’s allotment of federal CARES Act dollars to help businesses in the hardest-hit industries. Of the total, $20 million will be for short-term cash assistance and the remainder available as loans.

Inslee has defended the indoor service ban as a proven step in helping blunt the virus’ spread. He cites the rapid decline in new cases after he issued a similar ban in March. At the time, the state did not have a mask mandate nor much experience with safety protocols for restaurants.

“We are strongly persuaded by the science of COVID-19,” wrote Inslee press secretary Mike Faulk in an email. “Beyond the published science on outbreaks at restaurants, we know both anecdotally and based on how the virus spreads that it’s clear indoor situations where people aren’t wearing masks (restaurants) or are creating a lot of aerosolized particles through heavy breathing (working out) are inherently higher risk.”

Lawmakers said they were surprised by the governor’s action on the indoor seating ban. They contend that recent data show that restaurants are not fueling the latest surge in cases, largely because of strict adherence to safety protocols.

Inslee will meet with some of the letter-signers Friday afternoon, Mullet said.

“I want to have a policy discussion,” he said.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

More in Local News

The site of a new development along May Creek Road next to the entrance of Wallace Falls State Park on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021 in Gold Bar, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Gold Bar considers home parking permits near Wallace Falls

In the past, parking spilled from Wallace Falls State Park into town. Decals could avoid conflicts.

Letter
Oak Harbor legal staff quits over ‘compromised’ relationships

The city attorney and the senior assistant city attorney, who is also the public records officer, both resigned.

The scene where police from a King County agency shot a man at the end of a car chase Monday afternoon in a Safeway parking lot in Snohomish on September, 27, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Police shoot murder suspect outside Safeway in Clearview

The driver allegedly reversed into an unmarked police vehicle. Officers opened fire. He’s expected to live.

The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office released this image of a possible suspect in a homicide at a gas station at 148th Street SW and Highway 99 near Lynnwood. (Snohomish County Sheriff's Office) 20210926
Detectives investigate homicide at gas station near Lynnwood

One person was killed and a suspect was at large, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said.

Zach Graham stands in front of a newly restored Three Fingers Lookout. (Friends of Three Fingers Lookout)
Volunteers give makeover to precarious Three Fingers Lookout

Up high, with cliffs on all sides, the 90-year-old hut got much-needed new windows, shutters and paint.

Arlington son, 19, charged with slaying his father

Nicholi Melum had been yelling at his son, Garner, when he was killed.

Connie L. Bigelow at her store Miniatures & More in Edmonds on Tuesday. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)
Woman pleads guilty to wire fraud in Edmonds doll store fire

Connie Bigelow tried to collect insurance after setting fire to her business. Now she has to pay restitution.

Crews demolish the strip mall at 10th and Broadway, near the Washington State University Everett campus, on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 in Everett, Washington. Crews started tearing down a strip mall Monday on property that will soon expand Everett Community College’s footprint across Broadway. The Cascade Learning Resource Center project will total 65,000 square feet. It will expand the college’s tutoring resources as well as house the library, writing center and other academic support programs. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Demolition begins to make way for EvCC learning center

The 65,000-square-foot project will expand the college’s tutoring resources. It’s set to open in April 2023.

Marysville man shot in hand during apparent drug robbery

At least two suspects were being sought, and police are seeking surveillance video.

Most Read