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Gov. Jay Inslee Signs Unemployment Tax Relief Bill That Could Help Restaurants

Plus, Taste Washington announces participating restaurants in 2021, and Yonder Bar faces closure

Gov. Jay Inslee at a press conference wearing a face mask, a blue suit, and glasses
Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that could save Washington businesses almost a billion dollars in taxes for 2021.

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Gov. Jay Inslee Signs Unemployment Tax Bill That Could Help Restaurants

On Monday, February 8, Gov. Jay Inslee officially signed Washington state Senate Bill 5061, which reduces an anticipated spike in unemployment taxes for small businesses this year and beyond. Due to 2020’s mass layoffs during the pandemic, unemployment insurance taxes that would impact many restaurants and bars were set to go up significantly. But the new bill aims to mitigate the increase and promises to save small businesses about $920 million in taxes for 2021 and $1.7 billion total over the next five years. It also has a provision to raise the minimum weekly unemployment benefit for lower-wage workers and allows those who need to quit their jobs during future public health emergencies access to unemployment benefits.

Though the bill passed with large bipartisan support in the Washington legislature, there were a few on the republican side who wondered if the tax reduction went far enough to have the desired impact. Meanwhile, the labor organization Working Washington felt that the amendment to assist lower income workers by raising the minimum benefit would actually have the opposite effect by creating a ”subminium benefit” that may eventually reduce payments for those on the lowest end of the pay scale. “We know we have more to do — we have lots more to do,” said State Representative Mike Sells (representing Everett).

2021’s Takeout-Driven Taste Washington Announces Participating Restaurants

In late January, the organizers of Taste Washington — one of the biggest wind and food events of the year in the state — announced 2021’s event would focus on mostly takeout options and other remote, stay-home activities, rather than in-person activities. Now, some more details are coming into focus, including some of this year’s participants. Acclaimed restaurants Musang, Kamonegi, Canlis, Salare, Homer, the Whale Wins, Stateside, and Salare are among those offering special takeout menus for the event, which begins March 1. For those who’d rather cook at home, there are also going to be wine pairings with various recipes available online (curated by Whole Foods). The meals will all follow a theme, such as cabernets that match with casserole dishes and rieslings with noodles and dumplings.

Yonder Bar May Close After Complaints from Neighbor

After six months in business, the Greenwood/Phinney Ridge garage takeout cider spot Yonder Bar may have to close. According to My Ballard, complaints that a neighbor submitted to the city claim the takeout-only spot violates a Seattle rule limiting alcohol sales within a certain proximity to churches and schools (St. John Catholic School, St. John the Evangelist Parish, and Greenwood Elementary School are nearby, and the cider operation is on a “Stay Healthy” street). “The church and schools were notified by the Liquor Control Board when we applied for our license (which also had to be posted on our garage door for a few weeks) and we received no negative feedback,” Yonder founder and president Caitlin Braam tells Eater Seattle. The city later clarified that specific violations were related to off-street parking rules and improper signage.

Still, Braam says, the persistence of the complaints have left the operation with few options. She notes that Yonder will continue its delivery service, with its distributor based out in Wenatchee, but the lack of direct-to-consumer sales will hurt. It’s also looking for a new location, even as the owners ask customers to sign a letter of support in the hopes it’s not too late to stay where they are. “The City Council is working to find a solution, but no such luck as of yet,” says Braam. “Moving to any new location will take time.”