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What Washington’s Stay-at-Home Order Means for the Seattle Restaurant World

Restaurants can still be open for takeout and delivery; the order is in effect for the next two weeks

An empty Seattle street at night with the skyline in the background
Washington’s stay at home order goes into effect Wednesday.

On Monday night, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued an order for the entire state he billed as “Stay Home, Stay Healthy,” essentially a stay-at-home order to attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Under the new rules, all Washingtonians must stay home for at least the next two weeks, unless they are pursuing essential activities, such as getting groceries, going to the pharmacy, or visiting the doctor (they are also allowed to go outside for walks or bike rides, as long as they maintain social distancing guidelines of at least six feet).

Restaurants can still stay open for takeout and delivery, Inslee said, since they are considered essential. The stay-at-home order goes into effect immediately and will last for a minimum of two weeks, while nonessential businesses that will be affected have 48 hours to shut down.

This supersedes the policy that was already in place — but escalates the restrictions further, banning gatherings of people for social, spiritual, and recreational purposes. It also follows a similar mandate that many states have already issued, including California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Oregon. To date, Washington has more than 2,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, and more than 100 related deaths.

Not much may change logistically for restaurants from the previous order. Dining rooms have already been closed across the state since March 16, when Inslee issued an order for dine-in services to halt. Takeout, drive-thru and delivery services were permitted before, and still are now. Restaurants that do stay open for takeout must implement social distancing guidelines. But the previous order was effective through March 31, and this one will be active until at least April 6.

As far as booze goes, just as before, bars can stay open for food takeout or delivery only. Breweries and wineries can offer takeout with sealed containers, such as growlers or bottles, while liquor stores can stay open, if they sell food. Here’s the full list of what the state considers “essential services.”

It remains to be seen whether hospitality businesses currently trying to shift their model to takeout and delivery will see any further downturn in business as a result of the new order. The mandate should further limit commerce and travel in the area. As it is, many independent restaurants and bars are asking lawmakers for immediate relief.