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How new COVID-19 restrictions are impacting Spokane restaurants

Indoor dining is off-limits for a month amid rising COVID-19 cases across Washington, forcing at least one local restaurant owner to lay off staff.

SPOKANE, Wash — As restaurants in Washington state close their doors to indoor seating, it's a situation that feels all too familiar.

On Sunday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced new statewide restrictions to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Modified restrictions for restaurants took effect on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 12:01 a.m.

Rules for social gatherings, stores and other businesses went into effect on Monday night. 

Indoor dining at restaurants and bars is now prohibited, though outdoor dining and to-go services are still allowed. Table sizes for outdoor dining must be limited to five people. 

Some restaurants in the Spokane area, including Prohibition Gastropub, are adapting to the changes by installing heaters and wind breaks on outdoor patios. Luna on the South Hill said in a Facebook post that its outdoor Snow Globes are not affected by the new restrictions. 

Many business owners, though, are worried about the impact of new restrictions on local restaurants. 

“Not a lot of people are set up to have a shutdown in business like this,” said David's Pizza owner, Mark Starr. “It’s going to be a death blow to a lot of them.”

Restaurants will now have to resort to takeout orders, which may not be enough to keep them afloat based on numbers they saw during the previous shutdown, Starr said.

Adam Hegsted with the Eat Good Group owns several restaurants in Spokane, including the Gilded Unicorn and Yards Bruncheon.

“Our first takeout delivery phase was extremely difficult,'' Hegsted said. “We had to cut down to such a minimal staff that we’re going to have to do that again. We’re just going to go right to that.”

His restaurants in Spokane will only operate with a manager and chef until restrictions ease once again.

Governor Inslee has pledged $50 million to help support businesses that are struggling in the meantime. Without knowing when they’ll receive that money, some locally owned companies say they're now forced to let go of their staff.

RELATED: Aid available to businesses, individuals impacted by Washington's new COVID-19 restrictions

“It’s difficult to lay off all these workers and not specifically have the data backing up the closing of restaurants,” Hegsted said.

Starr shared some of the same concerns for his business.

“In another sense we’re saying, 'Well, wait a minute. We’ve been doing such a great job, why are we getting shut down here?'” he asked himself.

Veraci’s Pizza in Kendall Yards is laying off about a dozen of its employees, mostly servers.

Kitchen manger AJ Varni told KREM 2 that it is especially difficult to let staff go because they are like family. 

RELATED: Spokane businesses concerned about surviving second coronavirus shutdown

“They're the people that we're kind of focusing on right now to make sure that they have everything that they need,” Varni said. “We're trying to pull resources and trying to make sure that nobody has forgotten. But it is definitely a challenge.”

The new restrictions also caught Zola’s in downtown Spokane by surprise. The bar and grill reopened from the first shutdown on November 4.

For both Hegsted and Starr, they say support from the community has been much-needed help over this year.

They’re just hoping it’ll be enough because both of them expect to take losses during the newest round of restrictions.

“Just as we come into the Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays,” Starr said. “Couldn’t happen at a worse time.”

KREM 2 staff members contributed to this report. 

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