Monday morning ushered in more leniency for restaurants and other businesses across Washington, with the entire state moving into Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan.
The announcement — made two weeks ago — was celebrated by residents, business owners and lawmakers in both parties. It was spurred by declining case rates and a faster-than-expected rollout of vaccines.
It’s all good news for local restaurants, which can now welcome more patrons indoors. At Centralia’s Station Coffee Bar and Bistro, it means the joint can return to what it was meant to be: “A destination. Not a drive-through.”
That’s how manager Nikki Wilson puts it. On Monday morning, Wilson described couches and tables being used more and more ever since 25% capacity was allowed by the state. Phase 3 allows for 50% capacity.
The shop was heavily impacted when in-store consumption was prohibited, Wilson said.
“But now it’s so amazing. Because the rooms are filled with giggles and laughs. We have ladies here right now that are loud and giggly, and it’s the best,” she said Monday morning.
It’ll likely take time for residents to realize that regulations have changed. Previously, it’s taken as long as two weeks for customers to become aware of the shift, Wilson said. But when locals do start spending more time inside, Wilson’s seen morale boost among staff.
One of the perks of the job is “just being able to converse with everyday people,” she said. “Hearing their stories and taking that time,” she said. “Being able to have them in here is really lovely.”
If crowds do grow to 50% capacity, Station Coffee Bar and Bistro may be able to bring staff back for longer hours.
Over at Judy’s Country Kitchen in Centralia, Judy McCann said the establishment will finally be able to host tables of 10 now instead of six, with groups not limited to two households — a restriction relaxed by Phase 3.
“We used to have huge groups,” McCann said.
Back at North Tower Avenue, Centerville Cafe owner Marion Manzer said increased capacity is “icing on the cake,” but not a game changer.
Ever since patrons were allowed back inside, business has been good. Plus, 25% capacity is enough of a workload for just the handful of employees working tables, according to Manzer.
“I can probably say it doesn’t make much of a difference at this point, because we’ve done well since we’ve reopened. In fact, we’ve done very well,” Manzer said Monday. “When you have people standing outside waiting for a table, you know you’re doing alright … I can’t complain at all.”
To stay in Phase 3, each county will be evaluated individually every three weeks. Counties with more than 50,000 residents, including Lewis County, must maintain a case rate below 200 per 100,000 over two weeks and a hospitalization rate below five per 100,000 over one week. If the state’s ICU capacity breaches 90%, the entire state will fall back to Phase 2. That number is currently at 78.9%.
In Lewis County, cases have been rapidly declining while vaccinations ramp up with the help of more frequent mass clinics held at the fairgrounds. But the county’s case rate is at 153.5, above the state’s average of 126.6. The state Department of Health’s most recent complete data show Lewis County’s hospitalization rate at five per 100,000.