Bar, restaurant owners call on Gov. Inslee to extend service cut-off time

SPOKANE, Wash. — If you’ve been to a bar or restaurant recently, you probably heard last call before 10 p.m. This is because a Washington mandate forces businesses to stop serving alcohol by 10 p.m. It’s a rule many owners don’t agree with, though the mandate is intended to limit gathering sizes.

A letter written by a Seattle bar owner was sent to the governor nearly two weeks ago, asking him to change the serving time. Business owners from across the state signed it.

“A lot of us are not going to make it much longer if we can’t produce more revenue,”  said Dan Austin, owner of two bars in Seattle.

He said he wrote the letter after he overheard customers talk about whose house they were going to after the bar. This raised concerns for Austin.

“If the protocols put in place by the governor are effective between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., what happens between 10 and midnight or 1 that all of a sudden makes it that that we have to shut down,” he explained.

The owner of Beerocracy in the Garland District was one of the Spokane bars to sign the letter. Kai Bright said shutting down in March was a hard hit. It’s been even harder with the restrictions.

“We’ve probably taken at least a 75-80% hit on our income,” Bright said.

He said with restrictions, Beerocracy can only have 12 people inside and they still can’t open bar seating.

“Because you can only have people sitting from the same family group or household that number only even decreases that much further,” Bright explained.

The limited hours was another blow to his business.

“Now we’re open from 4-10 Tuesdays through Saturdays and just there’s no business on Sundays and Mondays anymore,” he said. “I mean, our busiest time of the night is between 8:30 and 1 a.m. [Gov. Inslee] just cut all of that revenue out from under us.”

Bright said his bar is following all the rules and doesn’t understand how extending hours would change the safety measures.

“We’re still following all the guidelines and protocols to keep people safe and that wouldn’t change after 10 p.m,” Bright explained. “We’re doing our best to keep everybody healthy and we’re being punished for it in a way.”

4 News Now reached out to the governor’s office and asked for the reason behind the cut-off.

“Regarding the specific 10:00 p.m. cutoff, we have heard repeatedly from local health departments and local law enforcement about the positive impact this change has had on social gatherings that lead to COVID transmission. We have nothing in the works at the moment to revert it.”

When we asked for data to back this up, we did not hear back.

In the letter, owners are asking the governor to extend hours to midnight.

“Let’s dip our toe in the water,” Austin said. “Let’s give us back two hours of operating cause the reality is at a 10:00 close, we’re doing last call at 9:30 or 9:40.”

Austin said giving bars more time to serve people will help.

“It’s a struggle to try to constantly come up with the new changes to try to survive,” he said, “and just giving us a little bit of our normal operating hours back would take a lot of that stress off of us.”

In a recent study published by the CDC, “Adults with positive SARS-CoV-2 test results were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than were those with negative SARS-CoV-2 test results.” The participants in the study were not asked if they dined inside or outside.

Other Spokane bars to sign the letter include Fast Eddie’s, River City Brewing and Borracho Tacos.

Austin has not heard back about the letter sent to Gov. Inslee. The governor’s office responded to our request for a statement regarding the letter.

We’ve been engaged with restaurant owners in several ways including: weekly meetings with the WA Hospitality Association, several meetings with a group of restaurateurs and legislators in the Clark Co. area, and an upcoming meeting with City of Tacoma elected officials and restaurant owners. The purpose of all these engagements is to hear from them about potential changes to our current guidance with the goal of allowing restaurants more opportunities to “make it” in this new environment while maintaining public health and safety. We understand the struggles restaurants and bars face and we hope to do everything we can to help them continue to operate safely.

READ: Some businesses still closed six months into COVID shutdowns