LYNNWOOD — On a normal Friday, the dozen or so tables would be packed, with people waiting in the wings for any opening at Around the Table Game Pub.
These are not normal days.
Instead, nine people at four tables drew cards, examined game boards and maps, moved pieces and rolled dice.
This was before more than 1,500 people in Washington were confirmed to have the new coronavirus disease COVID-19, which has killed 83 statewide and counting.
This was before Tuesday when Gov. Jay Inslee ordered bars, recreation and entertainment venues, and restaurants to close except for delivery and take-out.
“Going from 50 people on a busy night or 40 people to one or two is tough,” said co-owner Nick Coelho. “If small businesses weren’t already thinking about this, they’re in big trouble… We had a plan already in motion, this just gave us a firm government push in that direction.”
Public worry cut into revenue for bars and restaurants before the government limits on public gatherings, including for private businesses.
To stay open requires a needle threading of regulatory compliance. Crowds are limited to 50 or fewer, with several qualifications. Older adults and anyone with underlying medical conditions have to be encouraged not to attend, people must stay 6 feet apart and employees are screened for symptoms daily and can’t be there if they show any. Proper hand hygiene and sanitation must be available, and high-touch surfaces must receive at least a daily cleaning and disinfecting.
The regulations effectively shuttered social clubs. The Fraternal Order of Eagles, which has locations in Everett, Granite Falls, Lynnwood, Monroe, Snohomish and Stanwood, is mostly closed through March. The Granite Falls Aerie tried to keep its kitchen open for takeout orders, but there wasn’t enough demand. For now, only a couple of employees are staying on for cleaning. The Lynnwood Aerie plans to be open Monday through Friday for takeout orders.
Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Washington, including eight in Snohomish County, are shuttered until April as well. Don Wischmann, quartermaster and building master of the post in Everett, said staff check messages.
“We are still there to help those veterans,” he said.
Retail and big-box stores also are required to designate an employee responsible for sanitation and social distancing.
In the swing of federal tax-filing season, national chain H&R Block is forging on with its offices following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for disinfecting and social distancing. On Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced an extension of the tax-filing deadline, from April 15 to July 15.
Some services and stores are hanging on by a thread.
They’re not alone.
Even places that can stay open are struggling to make money. Some started offering curbside pickup and home delivery. Others have trimmed hours and staff in an attempt to reduce expenses to stay open.
At Narrative Coffee in downtown Everett, the living room-style coffee shop transformed into a drive-through overnight after Inslee announced the new restrictions.
“We just handled it right away,” barista Nicole Lindquist said.
The coffee shop changed its front parking to allow customers to order curbside drip coffee, place to-go orders and pick up phone orders. You don’t have to leave your car if you don’t want to.
Patrons may also place an order by walking inside, where the furniture has been rearranged to prevent people from sitting in groups. There aren’t any chairs or tables, just some sofas for customers waiting for orders.
The shop also shortened its menu to make it more conducive for ordering on the go.
“Skillet potatoes aren’t really great to-go,” Lindquist said.
So they added a $4 breakfast burrito instead.
Business groups and cities created landing pages listing which professional services, restaurants, retailers, taprooms and tasting rooms are still open. The Historic Downtown Arlington Business Association launched Virtual Arlington. Everett made EverettForEverett.com. Marysville tagged locations using Google Maps. The tourism booster Discover Mukilteo listed open restaurants on its website. Virtual Snohomish shows which places are still open via online orders and services. Economic Alliance of Snohomish County built localsnoco.com, which aggregates those sites and other information useful to business owners. The Lake Stevens Chamber of Commerce compiled a list of open businesses on its website.
Non-retail businesses have had to get creative.
Mason Klein owns Revelry Crossfit in Lake Stevens. The gym closed last week and transitioned to one-on-one online coaching for all of its 100-plus members.
“It’s been good because people were expecting us to be completely closed for two weeks,” Klein said.
He opened up equipment for checkout so members could bring home free weights or a barbell.
They use them for the workouts Klein is posting on social media and sending out in emails.
It’s not exactly prime time to open a new business — but Jacob Ort’s specialty coffee house in Everett has been in the works for three years. Nadines Coffee House opened Friday, March 13, just two days before Inslee called on restaurants to shut down dine-in services.
It’s a speak-easy style shop, complete with an espresso “mocktail” menu, tucked away down a set of stairs to the left of the Jonn Laurenz barber shop on Wetmore Avenue.
Ort’s first two days of business, when customers could hang out inside, went great.
Then on Monday, no one showed up.
He’s only offering to-go coffee and pastries while restrictions are in place.
“I don’t know what to expect to be honest,” he said. “I’m taking it one day at a time.”
His soft opening hours are 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Just down the street, new houseplant shop owner Anna Gallup is also in her first few days of business. She opened Planted last Saturday, just one day after Nadines Coffee House. Her opening day party was packed, she said.
“I’m pleasantly surprised with the community’s support,” Gallup said.
She’s using social media for sales by posting photos of her entire inventory. People pay over the phone and pick the plants up.
And it’s working.
“Day one was pretty busy,” she said.
She’s allowing up to four people in the store at a time. “I wanted to make it an option for people to come in if they wanted and felt comfortable, especially with people stuck at home,” she said.
In Snohomish, Maple + Moss Boutique owner Kortney Henry also said social media has been a great tool for keeping sales going. She’s doing virtual “try ons” on Instagram and Facebook to show customers what her items look like when worn.
In addition to curbside ordering and pickup, she’s offering one-on-one shopping experiences, where customers can individually come into the shop and have Henry pull outfits for them.
The restrictions have forced most businesses to change or adapt in some way.
Third Place Books is offering free shipping on all orders. The Schack Art Center is offering virtual gallery tours and selling art “take-out” through social media.
A few businesses may get through the restrictions relatively unscathed.
Like many businesses, Northwest lumber company Dunn Lumber has taken safety measures like implementing curbside pickup and increasing deliveries. But company president Mike Dunn said they’ve actually seen a small increase in demand.
Dunn said he thinks that’s because some folks stuck at home have been using their extra time for do-it-yourself projects.
In Gold Bar, Original Pilot House Coffee has long been known for delivery via ATV. Now, owner Heather Rousey said that reputation is carrying the business through a drop in orders.
Snohomish County residents have rallied around their favorite local businesses.
Katie Walker, a certified medical assistant at Providence Regional Cancer Partnership, organized group take-out lunches for local restaurants.
On Wednesday, the clinic staff ordered $300 worth of Red Rock Subs. They planned to order from Marysville’s Wander Cafe Friday. At least 35 clinic employees signed up for an order, which Walker estimated would come out to around $400.
“A lot of times during our Relay for Life fundraiser it’s the small local businesses giving out gift cards and support,” Walker said. “In their time of need now, how can we help them?”
Tim Morgan and Coelho, Around the Table’s co-owners, opened in 2014. The game pub took awhile to build up as the owners cultivated the feeling it was a “third place” for customers. It’s been that way for a few years.
For now, it’s something else.
The owners drafted several plans for their business in anticipation of government limits. They moved and reduced open hours, cut shifts and asked if any employees would take unpaid time off or go on standby. They knew it was a hard ask.
“This is probably the most traumatic period in our business’ history,” Coelho said.
Prior to the near-total ban on in-house customers, they were regularly disinfecting tables and other frequently touched places and had limited the number of people per table in line with “social distancing” recommendations from county, state and federal health experts.
“It’s really nice they care about their employees and customers,” said regular customer Derek Mayfield. He was there prior to the restrictions with a couple friends for their regular Friday night hangout.
Neither Coelho nor Morgan are taking a salary this month.
Until the restrictions are lifted by the governor, only Morgan will work at the store. That’s how the shop operated when it first opened six years ago.
Since the craft beer and pub food side of Around the Table is dramatically diminished, Coelho and Morgan are focusing on board game sales. They may not always compete at price with online retail giants, but they can recommend the next tabletop fun you should try. And they have hard-to-find items like lead miniatures for Dungeons & Dragons that are decades out of production.
Before the pandemic, the game pub was gearing up for a celebration of its sixth anniversary. Those plans, like so many others, were scrapped.