‘I’m not sure that Chaps could go on for much more time’: Longtime restaurant struggling during shutdown

SPOKANE, Wash. — Restaurants have been taking hits left and right during the Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order. When Governor Inslee released his four-phase plan, it gave restaurant owners some hope they’ll get the green light soon.

Restaurants are waiting for Phase 2 before they can start to open up. Right now in Phase 1, it’s still just take-out and curbside delivery. In Phase 2, restaurants can open their dining rooms, but only at up to 50% capacity. In Phase 3, that capacity goes up to 75%. Finally in Phase 4, which may not be until mid-July, restaurants can finally open completely.

It’s been an agonizing waiting game for local restaurants.

If you’ve ever been to Chaps Bakery & Diner in Spokane, you know a look of emptiness at their restaurant is not a typical sight. Being closed for the past seven weeks has not been easy. While they are starting to feel a light at the end of the tunnel, they said they still have a long road ahead of them before they can get back to normalcy.

Chaps Bakery and Diner’s owner, Celeste Shaw, describes her restaurant of 17 years as a ghost town.

All the restaurant’s chairs and tables are stacked away. Their chalkboard, that would normally say something witty or inspirational, is blank. Their dining room, that would smother you with smells of cookies and fresh coffee, has been untouched since March 18.

“We worked so hard to get to this point. It just has gone away. It’s no one’s fault. But, it’s sad,” Shaw said.

Shaw said Chaps, like other restaurants, is getting close to exhausting every resource they have. If it gets to June, and we’re not advancing through the governor’s four-phase plan, their restaurant may be in danger of not reopening.

“I’m not sure that Chaps could go on for much more time,” Shaw said.

Ever since mid-March, Chaps has been losing money because of the shutdown. Even though no business is happening at the restaurant, Chaps still had to pay the bills for the property. Shaw has continued to pay for power, garbage, and heat bills.

Chaps has not been doing any takeout or curbside service during the shutdown. Shaw told 4 News Now the restaurant went over costs to provide takeout services and it wasn’t worth it. Chaps laid off all their employees during the pandemic.

Shaw wants the community to understand, she doesn’t want to close. But even at a 50% capacity during Phase 2, they’ll lose money, and it’s unclear when Washington will finally get to Phase 4.

“You have a certain size staff, and a certain size dining room to accommodate what your restaurant holds. So no matter what your size or what you serve. You suffer equally because you’re still cut in half,” Shaw said.

Chaps is hoping for the best outcome. For now, they are studying up on what their new normal will look like. Shaw said her restaurant is working through the safest way to go about food handling and food preparation. She said she understands they have additional obstacles to work through, getting business back open when the time comes.

Shaw told 4 News Now, even ordering food supply in preparation to reopen has been difficult. She said food suppliers are going through a meat shortage, so there is a possibility Chaps won’t be able to serve their full menu.

“You may have to change your menu, you have to change your staffing, you change your hours. You will accommodate in every way just to somehow determine how to move forward and create some profit and take baby steps to get back to where we were,” Shaw said.

Shaw said she is reading through every safety guideline and making notes on how they can incorporate those new safety measures in her restaurant. The most important thing, she said, is that staff and customers are in a safe environment.

If you are a Chaps fan and you’re looking for a way to support their business, you have an opportunity this Sunday. If you’ve been missing the bakery’s Chaps Baked Oatmeal, plan on this event. For Mother’s Day, Chaps will be doing curbside oatmeal service from 8-10 a.m. They’ll set up right outside their restaurant. You can say hi to the Chaps team and get some oatmeal for mom or any of your loved ones.

Chaps will also be selling their Food is Love shirts and aprons, if you’re looking for a Mother’s Day present.

RELATED: Finding the Helpers: Local businesses create clothing for a good cause

RELATED: Supporting local restaurants: Where you can order takeout or delivery