Jackson’s on Cole Street had to close temporarily due to staffing shortages. It was planning to open up again when Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all restaurants to stop indoor dining for four weeks. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Jackson’s on Cole Street had to close temporarily due to staffing shortages. It was planning to open up again when Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all restaurants to stop indoor dining for four weeks. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Enumclaw’s downtown economy threatened by restaurant closures

Will outdoor dining and take-out orders be enough to keep local restaurants open?

First, Kelly’s Mercantile closed. Then, it was Jubilee Naturals. And now, with Gov. Jay Inslee’s most recent mandate to shut down indoor dining, other local business owners are worried they won’t have the resources keep their doors until the restrictions are lifted.

Inslee’s newest orders went into effect Nov. 17 after he said this “third wave” of COVID-19 put the state “in a more dangerous position than we were in March when our first stay-at-home order was issued.” Besides no indoor dining at restaurants or bars, grocery stores and other in-store retailer capacity also dropped to 25 percent occupancy.

These new restrictions were to last four weeks, or until Dec. 15, but it’s unclear if Inslee will lift them by then.

“My hunch is, based on past track record, that I don’t see us opening for indoor dining before the first of the year,” said Jeff Schweter, owner of both the Rainier Bar and Grill and Jackson’s. “I think this is going to continue to spike through the holidays and I don’t see [Inslee] turning that order around any time soon.”

Schweter said his businesses were doing “fairly well” when the state was allowing some, albeit limited, indoor seating. Unfortunately, this new round of restrictions came right as Jackson’s was set to re-open, after having been closed for recent weeks due to staffing issues.

However, “We’ve been lucky enough, or blessed enough, to have been doing solid business for years, and we’ve got reserves,” he continued. “We’re going to have to dip into them.”

While Schweter may have some reserves, other business may not.

“We still have maxed credit cards and back rent. We were working back up to flush and the holiday season may have gotten us there just for the slow January and February months,” said Sean McDonald, owner of the Cole Street Brewery. “If this shutdown extends through those months and there is no business support, not only Cole Street Brewery but most every small business in our town will be out of business.”

It’s not just the financial aspect of the pandemic that’s causing pain and grief — it’s also the psychological aspect of the pandemic, said Troy Couch, CEO of the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce.

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job keeping them financially in pretty good shape. I think it’s the emotional thing that’s going to take a toll on our businesses,” he said in a recent interview. “They’re emotionally spent. You can see it in some of their reactions. They’re really edgy. Angry. Exhausted. If they saw an end in sight, if they got through January and the vaccine looked like it was coming or it was already out and it was going to start being effective to where they could go back to normal a little bit, I think they’ll hang on. I think they’d make it. That’s my hope.”

But Couch is worried that once the restaurants go, that’ll be the beginning of the end for Enumclaw’s economy.

“Restaurants are the draw. Restaurants and breweries, wine bars and things like that. That’s the draw that draws people to come down, have some food, have a drink, and then they go into the stores,” he continued. “You don’t have that draw, that puts a serious dent in the retail.”

Couch added that the Chamber is looking to host some more BINGO events to help encourage people to come downtown and enjoy a meal, as well as duplicate the new local brewery and winery Imbibe Trail Tour for local restaurants.

But some help has to come from above, too — McDonald has made it clear in past interviews that there needs to be a stimulus package just for business owners to be able to pay their rent and utilities, and Schweter said he needs more Paycheck Protection Program money to keep paying his employees, as well as needing the state to figure out its unemployment system.

“The people that we’ve had to lay off have had a really hard time still getting into the system and getting the money they’re supposed to be getting,” Schweter said, adding that he’s had to go from 35 full- and part-time staff to just about eight or nine.

But whether that aid will come is still up in the air, and hope seems to be a faint glimmer.

“[I’m] not counting on the state or the fed to save me,”Schweter said. “We’re just going to do what we can.”

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in News

West Point Treatment Plant in Seattle. Photo courtesy of King County
Power outages cause massive wastewater spill into Puget Sound, Lake Washington

King County estimates millions gallons of untreated wastewater overflowed into surrounding waters.

Democrats in the Washington State House are proposing to pay for transportation improvements partly by raising the gas tax by 18 cents. (Sound Publishing file photo)
House Democrats lay out massive $26B transportation package funded by gas tax hike

An 18-cent gas tax increase and a fee on carbon emissions would fund new roads and more.

File photo
Report: 70 percent of gun deaths in Washington are attributable to suicide

Research done at The Firearm Injury and Policy Research Program at Harborview… Continue reading

BECU scholarships open

High school seniors and college students can apply for a $2,500 scholarship.

June 2018 algae bloom. Photo courtesy of Department of Ecology
Human-caused ‘dead zones’ threaten health of Puget Sound

Wastewater treatment plants account for about 70% of the excess nutrients.

Robert Allen, 61, had never been homeless in his life before 2019, when he lost his housing. The chef has been trying to get back on his feet, and hopes to open a nonprofit and make hot sauce. File photo
King County implements 0.01% sales tax to raise money for housing the homeless

Officials plan to buy hotels, motels and nursing homes for conversion into permanent housing.

Former felons in Washington state can only get their voting rights back after serving time, parole, and probation. Image courtesy procon.org.
Bill promotes automatic right to vote for people released from prison

Currently, former felons in Washington can regain their right to vote after serving their sentence, parole, and probation.

City of Enumclaw council chambers
City looking for Arts Commission applicants

The Arts Commission meets at 4 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month.

gavel and sounding block on desk
Alleged poisoner, molester trial date set

Allen W. Bittner is accused of poisoning his stepdaughter using home-made chloroform.

Most Read