Restaurant industry bracing for steep downturn amid new restrictions

When Governor Jay Inslee’s new restrictions for restaurants go into effect, customers will only be allowed to choose to-go or delivery options. Outdoor seating is also available for those braving the cold November days.

The new restrictions go into place just as an incentives geared for restaurants in the South Sound are about to expire.

Pierce County’s Restaurant Rally ends Thursday. The program uses Cares Act funding to offer diners as much as a 30% discount, and covers business owners 50% for most menu items.

Inslee’s announcement earlier this month spurred Pierce County lawmakers to boost the program’s offerings as a lifeline for an industry struggling to survive.

“I came here as a kid and now I’m one of the owners,” said Lisa Almonte.

Her son Nicolas helps build the pies at Spud’s Pizza Parlor. The restaurant has been a Tacoma icon since the 1060’s and the economic downturn has been difficult.

“It is tough, we’ve had some friends who have had to close,” she said.

Regular customers helped the family business survive, as did the county’s Restaurant Tally program.

“It’s been good,” she said. “We’ve seen a slight increase in our business.”

“This was an attempt to save the industry,’ said councilmember Dave Morell who first floated the plan.

The state’s restrictions could mean 100,000 restaurant employees across the state could lose their jobs, according to the Washington hospitality Association, but Pierce County officials say the rally is helping cushion the blow, locally.

Russ Heaton says the program should help his bar stay afloat, too.

“It’s tremendous, that amount of money will help us a long way to weather the storm,” he said.