Local restaurants are operating with a skeleton staff and rely on carry-out orders to get them through these uncertain times Meanwhile, many servers and bartenders are out of a job for at least two weeks — and many are filing for unemployment.
On March 16, Gov. Jay Inslee held a press conference where he announced that all restaurants and bars in the state are ordered to close to the public for at least two weeks. Restaurants can still serve food but only as carry-out or delivery.
The Country Cousin Restaurant in Centralia is open for to-go orders and is using the two-week closure as a time to make some repairs to the restaurant. Manager and part owner Stephanie Campbell could be found painting the green trim in the gift shop portion of the restaurant on Thursday.
“We are trying to do projects so we are remodeling the women’s bathroom, we had a couple of pipes that needed to be fixed in the kitchen. We are painting and cleaning. Trying to stay positive,” said Campbell.
Campbell said it has been quiet in the restaurant since the closure but they are plugging along and hoping people will come out and pick up some to-go food.
“We are open to the community because people get tired of fast food. We’re trying to give comfort food and be here for them,” said Campbell.
Campbell said that they are working with a minimal crew of management, line cooks and her daughter on the cash register.
“Just because the governor shuts us down doesn’t mean the rent isn’t still due and the utilities and all of that. I just feel like trying to utilize the time as best we can and stay open for the public and try to multitask is the best we can do,” said Campbell.
Joy Templeton, owner of Once Upon a Thyme in Chehalis, said that they are going to stay open as long as they can to make fresh food for the community. Templeton said that they still had St. Patrick’s Day specials and people are able to come into the restaurant to pick up their food.
“We have been very well supported by the community. So I am staying open as long as I can. I’m cooking fresh every day, and as long as we’re supported we’ll be OK. I had to lay off a couple of people and so far it’s just a couple of people. I’m going to do everything in my power to make it work and make it so that people can have fresh, good food,” she said
Templeton said the two employees that she had to lay off filed for unemployment online.
“I said had them get online and file for unemployment right away. I said ‘I’m sorry to have to do this but in the end, you’ll fare better than if I cut hours back.’ I just want to make it OK for everybody,” she said.
Dawn’s Delectables Desserts & Sandwich Shoppe on Tower Avenue in downtown Centralia is still open but only for to-go food and coffee.
Molly Goss, a Dawn’s Delectables employee, said that in spite of the closure of the seating area, the mornings at the shop have still been busy.
“People have been really considerate of the seating area being closed. People have been really nice and it’s really cool to see the community come together,” said Goss.
The employees’ hours have been cut but Goss said that her manager is doing the best she can to spread out the hours so everyone is still able to work.
“I’m doing OK because I’m not paying massive bills but I know some of my coworkers are struggling especially the older ones who can’t really work because they are afraid of catching the virus,” said Goss.
Jordan Peabody, owner of the Tiki Taphouse in downtown Centralia, said usually he operates with 8 to 10 employees but currently only needs about three employees to fill the to-go orders.
Tiki Taphouse has food and growlers of beer available for pick up. In the dining room, all of the chairs have been flipped up on the tops of the tables to indicate that seating is not available.
“We want to see everyone come out of this OK. A big thank you to everyone out there. It was really cool— we had Mail Plus come out with posters for the restaurants, so huge shout out to them because they are donating those and they don’t have to do that. People are really helping each other out,” said Peabody.
Peabody said that he hopes that when things return to normal that they can return the kindness and pay it forward.
“If we can help these guys stay open it helps everybody else out. It helps people have a place to eat, it helps people know what’s open. If any one of these businesses go dark, it may not affect us immediately right now but there’s a trickle-down that happens,” said Duane Beaver, owner of Mail Plus.
Beaver said there is no charge for the posters and that they will print one for anyone who needs it. The posters read “Open for Takeout Only” and include the restaurant’s name and phone number.
“We just figured that it was a good idea to get out into the community and do what we can to help,” said Beaver.