On Monday, a diner in Port Orchard, Washington, called That One Place reopened its doors for dine-in service in defiance of the state’s rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. Port Orchard is in Kitsap County, which is eligible to enter phase two of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan (when restaurants can open dining rooms at 50 percent capacity), but put its application process with the state on hold due to a recent case of COVID-19 at a long-term health facility in the county.
Currently, more of the rural counties in the Eastern part of the state are entering phase two of the state’s reopening plan, but many of the more heavily populated counties closer to Seattle remain in phase one. To date, there have been 19,585 confirmed cases in Washington and 1,055 deaths. Though overall rates are declining, the variations from county to county have made it difficult to predict when the whole state would advance in its reopening plan.
“We have decided as a team to protest the uncertainty of this lockdown,” read a statement on That One Place’s Facebook page. “This protest will be peaceful, civil, and most importantly NonPolitical [sic] … We want to show that human rights aren’t political rights, and this lockdown is the opposite of the safety we desire in society. We do not want to lose our license or incur huge fines. Only to speak our side. We will shut it down when we’re forced to.”
The restaurant’s reopening drew crowds, a heated discussion on Facebook with more than 700 comments (ranging from intense shows of support to those taking the diner to task), and attention from local media. The diner blocked off some booths with caution tape, removed tables, and provided hand sanitizer near the entrance, though some who came to eat appeared unconcerned about the potential health risks. A couple in their 70s waiting in line to get into the restaurant told the Kitsap Sun, “We’re in that category of probably shouldn’t be here,” but claimed they felt it was no different than going shopping for groceries: “You can go in and buy a hot dog at Costco and you’re close to people.”
That One Place Owner Craig Kenady told one news outlet that part of the reasoning behind opening was his employees’ situation. Most are from the Department of Corrections work release and substance abuse recovery programs, and Kenady claimed some of them have relapsed during the pandemic. “I’ve lost four employees back to addiction over that,” he said. “And that, to me, is far more real than seven cases spread out through our county.”
It also isn’t the first business in Washington to reopen before being eligible to do so. A barbershop in Snohomish recently made headlines for taking customers in what the owner called “his Constitutional right,” and a bar in Spokane Valley did the same.
Still, Rob Putaansuu, mayor of Port Orchard, responded to That One Place’s decision and said “the blatant disregard to social distancing” he saw in photos of those going to the restaurant Monday was “irresponsible.”
Whatever statement That One Place wanted to make, the protest was short-lived. As of Tuesday, the diner announced on Facebook it was solely taking to-go orders again. Eater Seattle reached out to That One Place for further comment, but did not hear back before this piece was published.