Kitsap County moving to Phase 2 of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan means for many of Poulsbo’s restaurants they can bring their customers out of the cold.
“So far it’s been really, really good,” said Dave Lambert, owner of the Slippery Pig. “We can only have 25 percent of our capacity inside, but we seem to be filling those seats pretty easily, and we still have the outdoor area set up, and the city says we can have that until the end of the year.”
Lambert is referring to Poulsbo’s Summer Fair Program, which was recently extended to allow downtown eateries to continue to take up parking and sidewalk spaces outside through 2021. The program started last summer. When the weather began to turn colder the city supplied restaurants with heaters and covers to continue the program with the hope of helping the businesses stay open.
While the move to Phase 2 is welcome, it does present new challenges and concerns for business owners. Everyone has seen the viral videos of customers being removed from businesses, public transit and other areas for refusing to follow masking or social distancing guidelines.
“We are going to have to be more vigilant about monitoring what people are doing. It seems like a lot of people are going to hear ‘Phase 2’ and think, ‘Oh yeah, everything back to normal,’ even though it’s not quite yet,” Lambert said.
In addition to restaurants and other retail businesses, the move to Phase 2 allows for places of entertainment, such as movie theaters, museums and bowling alleys, to reopen at 25 percent capacity as well.
That is exciting news for Kingston’s Firehouse Theater, though owner Craig Smith is hesitant, as the last time he was able to open the theater it was for a short time, and wound up costing him more than it would have to keep the theater closed.
“Last October I was opened for four weekends at 25 percent and lost money as people were, and still are, hesitant to come into the theaters,” Smith said.
To keep the lights on in the theater and make up for lost revenue Smith has been renting it out to small groups of six or less. With the increase to 25 percent capacity he can rent it out to groups of 12 or less.
“Last weekend I had all of my time slots for renting booked, but had to cancel them because of the snow,” Smith said.
Leery, but otherwise hopeful, Smith plans to begin booking films and selling theater tickets in March. In the meantime, he will continue coaching Kingston High School girls soccer, as prep sports are also now open for competition in Phase 2.
For other businesses, the move into Phase 2 will have little impact on their day to day operations, other than potential for increases in new or returning customers.
For example, Snap Fitness in Poulsbo is a 24 hour gym whose members come and go as they please and are asked to abide by social distancing, masking and sanitization rules.
“We were hardly hitting our capacity limits before the pandemic,” manager Arthur Thomas said. “Since we are open for 24 hours a day we don’t have to worry so much about people really occupying the gym around specific times.”
Thomas noted that 5 p.m. is a peak time in the gym as many members come after work.