Restaurants prepare for Fourth of July weekend, stepping up safety measures

SPOKANE, Wash. — COVID-19 infections in Spokane County continues to climb. The spike in cases have some restaurants taking extra precautions to protect its customers.

They also have Fourth of July weekend in mind.

“I certainly want restaurants and taverns to be doing the right thing,” said Dr. Bob Lutz, medical officer for Spokane Regional Health. “July 4 is a big get together gathering time and I hope people, I really hope people do it in a safe fashion.”

Restaurants like Wild Dawgs are doing their part for you.

“Dirty and clean pens that we sanitize so once you use it it goes there,” said Aaron Schwartz, the restaurant’s manager. “We sanitize them and put them back in the clean one. The log book is to do contact tracing.”

They’re also wearing masks and social distancing tables. Schwartz said they’re making sure customers also wear masks. If they don’t, he said they won’t be served.

“For our staff when they come in, temperature check,” Schwartz said. “Constant communication. They all call us non-stop, text us.”

To take it a step further, they will limit tables well below the 50% capacity cap to ensure they don’t get to 50% capacity this weekend. They also decided to cancel their hot dog eating contest.

“We were social distancing for it,” Schwartz said. “We had it limited to 10 people on two tables, but just to make sure that every body is safe and as safe as possible, we actually just canceled that.”

At Longhorn BBQ in Airway Heights, they’re keeping up with sanitation and physical distancing guidelines.

“We’re wearing gloves, we’re wearing masks,” said Shelley Tibbits, server and manager at Longhorn BBQ. “We’re changing our gloves after touching anything so we’re going through a lot of gloves right now.”

They’re also going above and beyond what’s required.

“We do have a list that we go by every 20 minutes — we go and do a full sanitation of all door handles, bathrooms — everything anybody might touch,” Tibbits explained.

Dr. Lutz said he is worried about another restaurant outbreak.

“Concerns are just that I hope that we’re not going to be seeing more restaurant/tavern outbreaks, but it’s a possibility and I go into July 4th with trepidation given that our numbers have exploded since Memorial Day,” he explained.

Last week, Borracho Tacos had 24 positive cases linked back to the restaurant.

“We required them to either test all of their staff and, or if the staff were not willing to be tested then they were to be placed in quarantine for 14 days based upon that quarantine piece,” Lutz said.

If another outbreak does happen, Lutz said the first thing they do is reach out to the restaurant. He explained that they walk through what they’re finding and what they hear based on the case and contact tracing.

“We have a conversation to determine what protocols they have in place, where there may be some deficiencies that could be addressed,” Lutz said.

79 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. It’s not clear if any are linked back to the outbreak.

As the holiday weekend approaches, Longhorn BBQ and Wild Dawgs wants to ensure that people can celebrate Fourth of July safely.

“We’re doing everything we can as a staff, as management, as ownership — trying to make sure everybody’s as safe as can be here,” Schwartz said.

“Just trying to make them feel comfortable, safe and still at home,” Tibbits said. “It’s up to us, the business to make our customers feel safe and take the proper precautions and follow the law.”

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