Although no one is quite sure when, and it probably won’t be anytime soon, restaurants will be reopening their dining rooms again.
When they do, things will be different. At one point, the State of Washington was prepared to mandate contact information for every restaurant patron. They’ve stepped back. Information given by patrons will now be voluntary.
Personally, I don’t see this requirement as a particularly intrusive request. Unless you’ve gone to great lengths to prevent it, your phone and many of your apps already know exactly where you’ve been every minute of every day — information they can, and often do, sell to third parties. Allowing a contact tracer to notify you when you’ve been in close contact with someone infected with a potentially deadly disease seems reasonable to me.
Opting out by refusing to provide an email address, for instance, will just make containment harder going forward. I’m in the camp that will willingly provide information for this purpose. I can think of a lot better places to voice my concerns about the erosion of privacy.
I checked in with three local restaurateurs this week and came away with two commonalities — thankfully, each has received stimulus money, and each has a deep appreciation for the tremendous support their regular clientele, and the community as a whole, has shown them.
It’s far from business as usual at Chanterelle. General Manager Tiffany Tran, whose father Hoa Tran owns five restaurants in the Puget Sound area, has been working out how reopening will look.
She’s prepared to follow whatever guidelines the state imposes. Her plans include setting up two separate teams. One, which will continue to handle the take-out aspect of the business, while a second team will cater to dine-in patrons who will have contact with fewer employees to limit potential exposure to staff and guests. Ten of 21 tables will be available, but seating will be limited to groups of five or fewer.
“We’ve been working with our restaurant consultants on reopening — we want to ensure that we have done everything we can do for the safety of our customers and staff before opening for dining,” said Tiffany Tran.
During this transition period, staff Janet, Trey and Greg have deep cleaned every surface and even tracked down sanitizer for staff and customers.
“I’m looking forward to the day I can bring back all of our staff,” Tran said.
She applied for and received a grant from the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which they’re using to revamp their website. Tran has also been touched by the number of T-shirt purchases that named Chanterelle as the beneficiary. Here’s a link if you’d like to participate.
In the meantime, their full menu, including cocktails, jars of their Olivada and Horseradish dressings and — of course –their legendary tomato bisque, are available for takeout. Current hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday).
People seem to be settling into this new take-out regime — Tran’s regulars are ordering once a week to as often as every other day. Patrons can order by phone or in person. Chanterelle can run your order out to your car.
I can only imagine how weary he must be of the question I poised, but Anthony Kjeldsen responded to my “how’s business?” query good-naturedly. “Business has been okay under the circumstances,” he said. “Yesterday was kind of dead, but I’ve talked to other guys around town, and it was dead everywhere.”
Maize & Barley, a Main Street taphouse that features a plethora of excellent local brews and serves delicious Caribbean-centric sandwiches, hadn’t quite celebrated its one-year anniversary when COVID-19 began rearing its ugly head in Washington.
“When this started, we just shut down for about two weeks. When we reopened, we pared down the menu somewhat and are offering about half the beers,” said Kjeldsen.
By my count, that still gives customers six or seven beers to choose from. The window next to the front door has been transformed into a take-out station. While my sandwiches were being prepared, I asked Kjeldsen how Maize & Barley would move forward when Phase 2 finally materializes.
“I think we’ll operate at half capacity, follow the guidelines. What else can we do? Everyone is pretty much just playing it by ear right now.”
Grab an empty growler and head down Wednesday through Sunday noon to 7 p.m.
Feed Me Hospitality’s Shubert Ho, who with partner Andrew Leckie and spouses Mira and Ciara own several local restaurants and a large catering operation, has not been idle during the COVID months. To the dreaded “how’s business?” question, Ho had this to say. “It’s been going okay. Some of our smaller units like Mar•ket are geared for takeout. But we were operating at basically 100% before this happened. It’s going to take a long time to get back there.”
With respect to the new guidelines for restaurants, he said: “They seem to make sense, we’ll follow them accordingly — to the best of our ability.”
Ho is finding that people are beginning to get the hang of ordering and picking up meals. “Early on, people hadn’t really figured out takeout yet, but that’s changing now — we’re seeing a lot more volume,” he said.
Recent discussions about closing Main Street to auto traffic from 3rd to 6th Street has many merchants along that stretch intrigued. Ho is no exception. “Opening the street to pedestrian traffic and allowing restaurants to put tables out on sidewalks would be highly beneficial,” Ho said.
He estimates that Edmonds has lost about 80% of Seattle tourism that used to benefit downtown merchants. Parking, sadly, is no longer an issue. Opening up the street to pedestrians and expanding outdoor options for shops and restaurants might be the way to draw them back, with the added benefit of enabling greater social distancing. Unless and until parking becomes an issue again, it seems like a great idea. If nothing else, closure to auto traffic there could be implemented on a trial basis for a year or two and then re-evaluated.
Accommodations allowing more relaxed outdoor seating provisions to other restaurants outside of Main Street might also be a reasonable thing to consider.
It’s a tired old trope at this point, but it’s time to adapt to the new normal. Meanwhile, there’s some great takeout to be had out there!
— By James Spangler
The furthest thing from a finicky eater, James Spangler insisted on trying everything on the table from the earliest age. At 13, he prepared Baked Alaska for an entire classroom and has had an insatiable appetite for good food ever since. He’d rather be in the kitchen cooking for the people he loves than doing just about anything.