By Anthony Anton, president and CEO

Our team at the Washington Hospitality Association has worked around the clock throughout the weekend on behalf of our members.

Today we face our new reality – the closing of public gathering spots and limiting restaurants to take-out, delivery and drive-thru.

On Saturday, I started getting calls that the virus was continuing to spread at numbers faster than projected and the government would soon consider a temporary closure of our state’s restaurants. On Sunday morning, we got calls from government officials, including from the Governor’s Office, asking for input, concerns, ideas and cooperation. By Sunday afternoon the choice was clear when the data and the risks were weighed. On Sunday night the Governor’s Office announced a temporary closure of a significant portion of our industry.

This situation evolved quickly. The temporary closures of all restaurants will have long-lasting impacts for many of our members – we assure you this was on the minds of lawmakers when making this tough decision. After coordinating with state and local officials all week, we believe these closures are necessary to protect Washington state families, yours and ours.

Here’s what we know after this weekend:

  • There has been a significant increase in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state – it ballooned to 769, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
  • The death toll in our state has risen to 42.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidelines to cancel any gatherings larger than 50 people. The previous recommendation had been 250 people.
  • “Public health experts agree that the true number of people who have been infected with COVID-19 in Washington greatly exceeds the number of COVID-19 infections that have been laboratory-confirmed,” according to the Washington State Department of Health’s website.

So, the storm is here. Time wasted yelling at the heavens is not time well spent when we need to focus on urgent needs. Washington restaurants will need to quickly decide if you are going to pursue the options still allowed to us (take-out, drive-thru, delivery), or if you will temporarily close.

Equally important is to treat your employees how you would want to be treated. The last three years have only reinforced for all of us the value of great employees. Support them in their effort to apply for unemployment insurance. Over-communicate during this time so they value your honesty and transparency. Do what you can so when this ends their first instinct is to come back to you.

And then after you have made all the other decisions you need to make from what to do with food inventory to conversations with lenders and landlords, please consider what you can do for your community.

Our community needs leaders like you right now. If you are able, please find a way to support first responders, parents struggling to find childcare, hungry school children, health care workers with long commutes, seniors afraid to shop or those most at risk. Every little bit helps and this a time for us to come together, even with social distancing.

Our work won’t stop today.

Your association remains in active conversations with lawmakers about how we can still play an important role in the community, such as contracting for services and products to help through this crisis. We will continue to work with state and local lawmakers over the next two weeks, and we will continue to seek solutions for economic relief.

We will get through this together if we stay informed and continue to show the community and our team members what great hospitality looks like.


Get all the coronavirus breaking news for your Washington hospitality business at our toolkit.