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More Than 70 Percent of Survey Respondents Say They Don’t Want to Dine Indoors

And 57 percent feel the state is reopening restaurants too quickly

A plate with a fork, knife, and napkin on top, next to a bottle of hand sanitizer and a light blue surgical mask
Indoor dining in Seattle is allowed at 25 percent.

On January 29, Eater Seattle posted a survey right as Seattle was preparing to enter the next phase of Washington’s reopening plan, which allows restaurants to resume indoor dining at 25 percent capacity (without any CO2 monitors or extra ventilation). We asked readers what their thoughts were on the relaxed restrictions. Nearly 2,000 people responded, and the results are in: Most do not feel good about dining inside right now.

Specifically, more than 70 percent said they won’t dine inside a restaurant at all right now (about 19 percent of total respondents said they would be okay sitting outside, though, and a small percentage submitted alternate caveats such as “depends on the space”). Meanwhile, 57 percent of respondents said that the state’s reopening plan is happening too quickly. Only 28 percent felt the timing makes sense as is, and the minority said that restaurants are not reopening fast enough.

Of those who are holding off on indoor dining, about 58 percent said they’d only reconsider sitting inside a restaurant when the majority of Washingtonians have been vaccinated; about 31 percent said they would consider it if they were vaccinated or they knew restaurant workers were vaccinated; and the remainder said they’ll go back to indoor dining whenever cases go to lower levels in general.

For those who were pro-indoor dining, the top two reasons cited by a wide margin were that they “miss the experience” and they felt “it’s a way to support small businesses.” Out of that group, votes on when restaurants should open beyond 25 percent were pretty much split among different lines. The most popular response (at about 35 percent) was to reopen further only once the majority of Washingtonians have access to the vaccine; 30 percent said the plan should depend on flattening or decreasing cases over the coming weeks; and 15 percent said that they should reopen as quickly as possible, which was slightly more than the percentage of people (14.7 percent) who said restaurants and bars should reopen further once hospitality workers can get vaccinated.

We also asked for more thoughts on the reopen plan, and here’s what some respondents said (those who submitted were allowed to remain anonymous).

I support with takeout almost daily and I don’t mind going to places where everyone is masked. And I miss restaurants and I miss our old life. But it doesn’t seem right or enjoyable to sit in a restaurant right now.

Restaurant workers should be receiving hazard pay for their sacrifices. We as consumers are taking advantage of restaurant workers’ economic status assuming that they will come back to work whether it is safe or not. That is a tragedy.

Just wash your hands and follow the simple rules; we need our restaurants to thrive.

Restaurants are generally respectful of all the rules. But COVID doesn’t care. Servers and cooks need to be vaccinated to protect themselves.

I understand we need to slow the spread of the virus, but at the same time, we have to limit the permanent damage to the economy.

Reopening is not the answer. Paying people to stay home (via robust government programs/social safety net) is the answer.

I understand how long it’s been and the financial ramifications, but killing off a bunch of people (because that’s what will inevitably occur) in the name of “saving” the industry seems like a poor decision by everyone involved. That this was announced right after yet another virulent new strain was discovered to be here, on top of workers not being eligible, just seems like a recipe for a new spike and shutting down completely all over again.

Restaurants should be allowed to be open. It should be left to individuals whether they want to dine in or not. The government should NOT be making that decision.

It’s just super tough because there isn’t enough money to support everyone this long in the emergency fund, but its also a very contagious and unpredictable illness.

Bad timing for loosening restrictions with the new variants here. We are being told to double mask now, but it’s ok to eat inside a restaurant?

Restaurants and workers need financial aid to support wages through this pandemic instead of opening too soon and risking another spike in cases. I feel for the servers who are now risking themselves on the frontlines of indoor dining without access to vaccines or other support.

We should be shutting down, not opening up due to these new variants. And the state should be giving every small business rent assistance to get them through this.