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‘The band-aid we need’: Spokane restaurants push for 50% indoor dining capacity

Takeout orders remain the main source of income for many restaurants in Spokane. As they wait for updates from the state, some are pleading for a chance to reopen.

SPOKANE, Wash. — With COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining still in place, several locally-owned restaurants are calling on Governor Jay Inslee to reevaluate current protocols.

The hospitality industry has had some of the hardest-hit businesses during this pandemic. Restaurants were allowed to reopen for indoor dining at one point but that came to a stop back in November.

“There’s no end in sight or a plan and that’s probably been the hardest thing for me,” said Reema Shaver, who owns Bistango. 

Some restaurants that can meet Washington state’s Open Air Dining guidelines can resume indoor seating. But takeout orders remain the main source of income for many in Spokane. 

As they wait for updates from the state, some businesses are pleading for a chance to safely reopen.

“50 percent allows us to hire our staff back,” said Derek Baziotis, owner of Bene’s.

Baziotis is one of several restaurateurs who are part of a new public service announcement. They’re calling on the governor for a return to 50% indoor dining capacity.

On Wednesday morning, Baziotis testified on behalf of Senate Bill 5114. It would allow restaurants to function at 25 percent.

RELATED: Washington bill would reopen restaurants at 25% capacity

He wants to safely bring back his business without fear of being shut down once again but there’s also concern that 25% isn’t enough to help.

“If we could just break even, if we could bring our employees back and pay them then we could pay our bills, pay our landlord. That would be the band-aid we need," Baziotis said. 

Indoor dining at 50% capacity would be similar to what restaurants were doing over the summer. With growing support across the region, the business owners are hoping their unified voice will be a spark for change.

“At some point, you have to trust us,” Shaver said. “You have to trust that we’re accountable to the health department. We’re accountable to our community and that we will do our part if we’re given the opportunity.”

Bistango has struggled with takeout orders during the closures.

Many restaurants are trying to figure out how to properly place orders without letting their food go bad.

Inslee's current "Roadmap to Recovery" would allow restaurants to reopen for indoor dining at 25% capacity in Phase 2. Until then, only outdoor and open-air dining will be allowed.