Restaurant owners testified in support of a bill that would allow them to partially reopen their establishments.

TACOMA, Wash. — Gloria Martin has been running Southern Kitchen on 6th Avenue in Tacoma for over 25 years.

“What I miss is not seeing our customers,” she said. “The ones that come in for takeout express exactly the same thing. It’s hard coming into Southern Kitchen, and not being able to just have a conversation.”

But because of COVID-19, Martin has had to close her doors, and can only serve her food to go, and it’s taking a toll on her business and the community.

“I think that the restaurant is a small part of bringing our community back together again,” she said.

Many restaurant owners throughout Washington hope that lawmakers share that sentiment.

On Thursday, restaurant owners testified in support of a bill that would allow them to partially reopen their establishments.

Currently, Washington is in Phase 1 of reopening, to help slow the spread of COVID-19, which means restaurants have closed their dining rooms. Owners say these regulations have made it nearly impossible to operate.

Some workers’ rights groups, like Working Washington, have pushed back against the call to open. Last month, the organization released a statement saying in part “with so much of their focus on making sure their businesses stay open, they are more likely to put us in these risky situations.”

Gov. Jay Inslee says that while he understands the frustrations of restaurants and many other businesses, and that state legislators need to make assisting businesses a priority, the measures taken during the pandemic have saved lives.

But Martin says that as long as people take precautions, going to a restaurant should be no different from going anywhere else.

“My issue is, I don’t see the difference between sitting down, in a safe environment, and serve food with disposable utensils…I just don’t see the difference between that versus going to a mall, walking around, going to a cashier and buying things at a store.”



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