Nearly 2,500 Washington restaurants permanently closed in the first six months of pandemic

Nearly 2,500 restaurants in Washington state permanently closed their doors during the first six months of the pandemic, though researchers with the Washington Hospitality Association say that number is likely higher. 

The hospitality trade group called every restaurant in the state in August and September to ask if they were open, permanently closed or temporarily closed. The association found 2,369 permanent closures; the state Department of Revenue shows more than 2,900 for the same time period. 

Of those, 1,852 were independently owned, 143 were national chains and 72 were local chains. 

Restaurant closures in the Puget Sound region include: 

  • King County: 1,023
  • Snohomish County: 258
  • Pierce County: 224
  • Skagit County: 51
  • Whatcom County: 81
  • San Juan County: 12
  • Thurston County: 32
  • Mason County: 8
  • Kitsap County: 54
  • Grays Harbor County: 12
  • Lewis County: 26

According to a poll done by the National Restaurant Association, 93 percent of Washington restaurant owners say revenue is down compared to the same time last year. Overall, sales have decreased 37 percent on average. 

Staffing levels are also significantly lower, according to the poll, with 92 percent reporting lower employee numbers and 65 percent of those reporting staffing levels down by more than 20 percent. More than three-fourths of restaurant owners say they are expecting more layoffs in coming months. 

RELATED: Restaurants continue to suffer amid restriction extension

The grim numbers will likely get worse as restaurants cope with new restrictions. The restrictions, imposed in mid-November amid a surge in Covid-19 cases, include a ban on indoor dining and wedding and funeral receptions, among several others. Gov. Jay Inslee announced yesterday that the new orders will be extended through Jan. 4, 2021. 

The state has made available $100 million to support businesses impacted by the latest round of Covid rules, but trade groups say without more state and federal assistance, more than half of restaurant owners surveyed are considering temporarily closing their restaurants until the pandemic ends. 

Restaurants that refuse to comply with the indoor dining ban - like Spiffy's Restaurant and Bakery in Chehalis, are facing huge fines of $9,000 per day or violation. For Spiffy's, that fine adds up to $67,000.