KINGSTON — Grub Hut owner Sean Pickard was expecting to have to close up on Monday when Gov. Jay Inslee announced that he was going to address residents of the state with updated guidelines and protocols in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
While restaurants have been allowed to stay open and provide takeout and curbside meals, Pickard decided to close down for two weeks during what is hoped to be the worst of the crisis. The Grub Hut will be closed until April 6.
The decision to close wasn’t an easy one — even as business precipitously declined during the early stages of the statewide shutdown. Pickard estimated he had lost between 50 and 75 percent of his normal business as a place that generally already had more takeout than dine-in orders.
“I don’t want to feel responsible for spreading this,” Pickard said. “I don’t want my kids to get it.”
His “kids,” are his staff, which mostly consists of young people aged 18 to 21 and rely on the Grub Hut for both a paycheck and their meals as they are allowed to eat what they want during their shift.
“I don’t want to leave them hanging in the wind,” Pickard said. “They can always come to the hut and get what they need. They’re like my family.”
But what Pickard has lost is a sense of normalcy. Having just returned from the empty Hut on Tuesday morning after announcing the closure, Pickard said he could not remember a time during the restaurant’s 11-year life that it was closed for more than a day, usually following a holiday.
“It’s been a very weird morning being down there at the Hut and not having anything happening,” Pickard said.
He had initially hoped that the Grub Hut’s continued operations would represent a point of continuity for the folks of Kingston and customers all around Kitsap County, but the spread of coronavirus had just become too great to ignore. Though he said his customers did well in keeping the proper social distance from one another, there will still plenty of contact points from which people could have been infected.
“Even if it’s just for 10 minutes while you’re eating, I thought being open would be a community benefit or service in that regard,” Pickard said. “But there’s a balance between people to feel normal and be healthy.”