One Step Towards Normalcy: Eating out at a Local Restaurant
Wow, the other night my wife and I and some good friends from the Eastside – who we hadn’t seen in more than six months – had dinner together at Doc’s Marina Grill – at the same time, around the same table, and sitting less than six feet apart!
Holy Mackerel, and I don’t mean the fish!
It was the first time we had gone out to dinner in a legit restaurant with anyone other than ourselves in more than a year. All four of us had received both of our Covid-19 vaccine shots, and had stayed put the suggested two-week waiting period after our last jabs, so we felt reasonably comfortable around each other.
We masked up during most of our visit – with the exception of when we were eating and drinking. The wait staff wore adequate PPE and the tables were a good six to ten feet apart from other parties on Doc’s covered deck. And each space was separated by a thick layer of transparent plastic sheathing.
Truth be told, it was somewhat surreal, especially after what we have all been through, sitting across from friends, shooting the breeze, eating good food and sipping a glass of wine or two.
But there we were at Doc’s, on a beautiful evening, with the sun’s rays glinting off the sail boats in Eagle Harbor and laughter emanating from our table and others. It felt – I’m almost reluctant to say so – normal.
Hmm… What we experienced may just very well be a slice of the new normal, in which mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing are a regular part of how we interact, inter-relate and do business.
Gov. Jay Inslee, himself a long-time Bainbridge Islander, together with many other state and local officials, has been gearing up to “re-open” Washington’s economy for the past year or so.
There have been many fits and starts. But to his credit, Inslee has stayed the course from the beginning – when our state experienced the very first cases and the very first deaths in the nation – and has been both patient and cautious in his proclamations.
It hasn’t been an easy stance to take. Protestors and anti-maskers have rallied outside his home on the island – especially during the late summer and fall election season – as well as at the Capitol in Olympia. But as time has rolled on, Washington – and Bainbridge Island – has seen Covid-19 cases and infections drop (although we are seeing a slight spike of late statewide), while more people are now being vaccinated than ever before.
This doesn’t mean the pandemic is going away anytime soon – new and more deadly variants seem to be cropping up every day – but there does seem to be a glimmer of light, and hope, at the end of the tunnel.
This past week is the latest example of our region pivoting in a positive way as the entire state entered Phase 3 of what Inslee calls his “Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery”.
Local restaurants like Doc’s, stores, shops and boutiques on Winslow, High School Road, Lynwood Center and elsewhere on the island, as well as fitness centers, high school athletics, movie theaters and other businesses and activities have been waiting – some less patiently than others – for this phase to finally kick in.
What does it mean? More people can gather together at local eateries, shop at stores, attend movies, and become spectators at outside venues.
The latter change, of course, affects both professional and high school sports, as well as motorsports, rodeos, and other outdoor spectator events. That’s one reason why our Seattle Mariners anticipate having at least 9,000 spectators at T-Mobile Park on April 1, opening day for Major League Baseball. Per usual, social distancing and facial coverings will be required.
Our local, regional and state economy is indeed beginning to open up. Just drive, bike or walk around the island and you’ll see more cars and trucks on the road and more activity in stores and shopping areas, and, of course, at schools, which have returned to in-person learning at long last.
We took a trip to Costco in Silverdale a few days back – to coincide with a doctor’s appointment – and couldn’t help noticing a crowded store and jam-packed parking lot. As we returned to the island, along State Highway 305, close to rush hour, the traffic was bumper-to-bumper in both directions.
“Looks like we’re back to normal,” my wife opined, echoing my very thoughts. As society becomes a bit freer under the new mandates, we shared our hope that people will stay compliant and adhere to the safety requirements still in place, and that when the dust finally settles folks will support local businesses, the arts and nonprofits.
Online activity has exploded during the pandemic, as people, stuck at home for months at a time, have reached for their computers, cell phones and smart TVs to shop and entertain themselves. Local business orgs, such as the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce, have made it easier for islanders to follow this path by creating its own online portal, the Bainbridge Island General Store .
While this effort is a spectacular innovation for fellow islanders – and will continue well into the future – we hope many of you will also consider “going live” during this time by visiting (and eating) in a local restaurant, shopping in one of your favorite boutiques, going to the gym, taking walks or rides in the forest, and just generally acting normal.
“Normal,” did I really just say that? Let’s hope that that so common a word returns to our vocabulary, sooner rather than later!
Washington State Phase 3 Rules
- Indoor social gatherings with people from outside your household should not include more than 10 people.
- Outdoor social gatherings shall be limited to 50 people from outside your household.
- Worship services allowed with up to 50% indoor capacity.
- Retail stores, including farmers markets, allowed with up to 50% indoor capacity. Curbside pick-up is encouraged.
- Professional services allowed with up to 50% indoor capacity. Remote work strongly encouraged.
- Personal services allowed with up to 50% indoor capacity.
- Eating and drinking establishments are limited to 50% capacity for indoor service and must end alcohol service and delivery at midnight. Outdoor dining must comply with the requirements of the Outdoor Open Air Guidance. Table size for indoor and outdoor dining is limited to a maximum of 10 people. Establishments only serving individuals 21+ and no food remain closed.
- Wedding and funeral ceremonies and indoor receptions, and wakes are permitted and must follow appropriate venue requirements. If food or drinks are served, eating and drinking establishment requirements outlined above apply.
- Low and moderate risk sports competitions a permitted. Fitness and training establishments can operate at a maximum of 50% capacity. Showers are allowed.
- Sports competitions and tournaments allowed for all risk categories. The maximum spectators allowed are 400 with capacity restriction depending on the facility. Guided activities are allowed without hard caps subject to restrictions.
- Indoor entertainment establishments such as aquariums, theaters, arenas, concert halls, gardens, museums, bowling alleys, trampoline facilities, card rooms and event spaces are open at a maximum of 50% capacity or 400 people, whichever is less. If food or drinks are served, eating and drinking establishment requirements outlined above apply.
- Outdoor entertainment establishments such as zoos, gardens, aquariums, theaters, stadiums, event spaces, arenas, concert venues and rodeos can be open for a maximum of 400 spectators with capacity restrictions depending on the facility. Walk-up tickets are allowed with restrictions.
Source: Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery