EDMONDS, Wash. — Under Gov. Jay Inslee's new statewide orders, Washington restaurants that offer sit-down service will be required to create a daily log of all customers.
The restaurants must maintain that log for 30 days, including telephone and email contact information and the time they were in the restaurant. The state wants this information to facilitate any contact tracing that might need to occur.
"No restaurant or tavern may operate indoor or sit-down services until they can meet and maintain all requirements, including providing materials, schedules and equipment required to comply," the guidance states.
At the Loft Cafe and Courtyard in Edmonds, owner Niko Raptis says he does not know how customers will react to providing personal information in the name of public health. He also says the other guidelines under Phase 2 will mean restaurants will need help to stay afloat.
The guidelines call for tables six feet apart, restaurants at 50% capacity, no bar seating, and no more than five people at a table. Hand sanitizer should be available, buffets and salad bars are not permitted, and it is strongly suggested that customers wear a cloth face-covering anytime they are not seated at the table.
"With 50% capacity that means that you need to renegotiate the rent or something. Something needs to happen because we don’t play with the same rules that we used to play with prior to COVID-19," said Raptis.
"I'm not sure how many customers will be very comfortable giving the names and phone numbers for privacy reasons," Raptis continued.
Around the corner at Red Twig Bakery and Cafe, Jamie Kearns-Twitchell says her focus is on public health.
"My biggest concern is people's safety at this point, so I think that kind of trumps the privacy," Kearns-Twitchell said.
Jennifer Lee is the manager of technology and liberty at ACLU of Washington, and she calls the current guidelines around creating a log of customers an invasion of privacy.
"People may provide inaccurate information to protect their privacy, or they might refuse to provide information all together. Additionally, certain communities may be disproportionately deterred from visiting restaurants at all," said Lee. "We all need to remember that privacy is absolutely compatible with public health, and in fact privacy-friendly public health measures can often be more beneficial to public health goals."
Lee said encroachments on privacy have to be limited in scope.
"They need to be scientifically grounded. They have to be temporary. They have to be subject to robust auditing measures, and there must be an end date to when these encroachments happen," said Lee.
It's a changing landscape for restaurant owners.
"We've been around for a while and we don't have any intention of going anywhere so," said Kearns-Twitchell. "I think when this first started, it was basically coming up with a new business plan like every day. You try to adapt and change. It's definitely been a struggle."
Red Twig Bakery and Cafe has started to bring some of their laid-off employees back, according to Kearns-Twitchell.
"Honestly, the community's really been showing up for us," she said.
While restaurant owners like Raptis are determined, he also acknowledges the new reality is a daunting one. Currently, his restaurant is doing about 20-25% of the sales they would normally do.
"The new rules are going to be very challenging for sure," said Raptis.
Governor Inslee has a four-phased approach to reopening Washington. Phase 1 began earlier this month. Phase 2 could begin on June 1. There are at least three weeks in between each phase, and if numbers show coronavirus is spreading, the Governor says he will take action.
"The phased approach to re-opening our economy will allow us to move forward with a careful and thoughtful balance of our state's health and economic needs," Inslee said on May 4. "However, if infection rates and hospitalizations for COVID-related issues go up, I would not hesitate to scale their efforts back down to protect public health and save lives."