‘There’s really no end in sight’: Four months later, some businesses still closed

SPOKANE, Wash. — It’s been a rollercoaster ride for some restaurants: Closing, reopening, only to close again because of a rise in COVID-19 cases. However, not everyone has gone through that cycle.

Not one drink has been mixed nor has anyone sat in any of the chairs at Wild Sage in the last four months.

Unlike some restaurants, they didn’t do take-out.

“At that point we felt, we were not really set up as a to-go business and a lot of people were jumping in that arena. But, we decided it makes the most sense for us to shut down and really conserve cash,” said Tom Sciortino, a managing partner for Wild Sage.

That’s what they did. Sciortino said they took the time to figure out what worked best for them. It was hard to balance being open for the safety of staff and customers. He needed to know if opening for take-out would be worth the overhead costs.

Almost four months later, they’re just about ready to take it on. Wednesday was actually supposed to be the first day for it, but they’re still working out some details.

In the meantime, they fixed up the place to meet social distancing guidelines. Sciortino said they added partitions that go with the color scheme of the restaurant rather than tape or plastic partitions.

“If you’re looking around the restaurant, we didn’t want the restaurant to feel like a hospital. It was important to us and our brand that we made changes to dining room,” he said.

The restaurant was originally supposed to reopen for dine-in on July 8, but now they’re waiting because of the spike in COVID-19 cases.

RELATED: Growing COVID-19 concerns force several Spokane restaurants to temporarily close

Wild Sage also received a small business loan to help keep them going. However, being closed for so long, it’s still a concern with no revenue coming in.

“It’s worrisome because there’s really no end in sight,” he said.

Sciortino said they’ve waited long enough to reopen for dine-in, so waiting a little bit longer shouldn’t be an issue.

“We opened right before the recession. We barely made it through that by the skin of our teeth,” he said. “Fortunately at this point, 14 years in, we’ve got more experience.”

Unlike Wild Sage being open for more than a decade, the Cease and Desist Book Club just opened last September.

When Phase 2 started in May, they reopened, serving alcohol, but were quickly shut down.

“We’re kind of in a gray area,” said Bryan Harkey, the owner.

They run under a nightclub license but are not a nightclub, Harkey said. He chose to get that license because it has more “freedom,” opening for certain hours compared to other liquor license restrictions.

That didn’t work out for them during the pandemic, as nightclubs don’t open until Phase 4.

“I feel like I almost will have to start all over again once we can even open up to full capacity,” Harkey said.” It’s disappointing, because we were really hitting our stride and really hitting our audience.”

Having to wait so long to reopen, whether it’s allowed yet or not, both businesses are just hoping people will come back.

“You asked me before what my biggest concern was and it’s really an emotional thing.  It’s being forgotten. We’ve been closed so long that we’re not going to be top of mind,” Sciortino said. “I have to put that behind me and realize that we’re doing this because we feel its the safest thing to do.”

RELATED: Spokane County allocates $10M in CARES Act funding to help small businesses with operating costs