Restaurants and bars brace for new restrictions

Restaurants and bars are facing tighter restrictions beginning Wednesday, November 18, a move the governor made to combat rising Covid cases statewide and around the country. 

Indoor dine-in service will close. Outdoor dining and to go service are permitted as long as all requirements of the “Outdoor Dining Guidance” are being followed. Table size for outdoor dining is limited to a maximum of five people.

The other restrictions announced by Gov. Jay Inslee Sunday take effect Monday, November 16. 

“It’s kind of heartbreaking to go back to square one and adjusting all over again. It’s hard to let go of employees, you know,” said Luam Wersom, owner of Mojito Seattle.

Wersom had to lay off employees back in March, and is now making the difficult decision to reduce his staff a second time because of the new restrictions.

RELATED: Gov. Inslee issues new restrictions to slow spread of COVID-19 in Washington state

“We’re family, you know, and I just feel like it’s harder on me. I never thought I would ever do something like that to an employee,” said Wersom.

Wersom started out washing dishes at the restaurant two decades ago, and became the sole owner of Mojito about six years ago.

“This is one of our neighborhood places, so we just try to support the local businesses as much as we can,” said customer Kim Ber. “It’s sad I think everyone’s just tired of all of this and hoping that it’ll be over soon.”

Along with the new statewide restrictions, Governor Jay Inslee announced an additional $50 million will become available for small businesses in the form of grants and loans, the details of which are still being worked out with state partners.

“It’s going to give businesses a small chance to breathe and recuperate,” said Wersom.

Wersom said more than 60 percent of his business has disappeared since the pandemic started.

The catering side of his business has suffered greatly. They used to get orders for birthday parties, wedding celebrations, holiday work parties and even the Seattle Mariners visiting team.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and it’s tough and it’s humbling,” said Wersom.

State leaders are still working out the details of new small business loans and grants. In the meantime, check out the Washington State Department of Commerce’s website “StartUp Washington” to find resources available to help small businesses rebuild, recover and restart.