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Pierce County back to Phase 2, here’s what diners, restaurants should know

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Pierce County heads back to Phase 2 on Friday (April 16, 2021) and the county will pause there for at least three weeks, as was announced earlier this week by Gov. Jay Inslee. The earliest the county’s phase can be reevaluated is May 3. You can read the full details of this announcement here.  

Can’t remember what the Phase 2 guidelines are? Yeah, join the club. 

I went looking for the new (old) rules. 

For diners: Below, find the important things to know if you’re a diner. 

Owners/workers: Are you a restaurant owner or industry worker? Scroll to the bottom of this article for links to websites with the regulations to refresh your memory. Also, find more information about two (TWO!!!) grant programs – offered by the City of Tacoma and Pierce County – that aim to help small businesses out of this rut. BOTH PROGRAM APPLICATIONS ARE DUE BY APRIL 23. 

DINERS: HERE IS WHAT TO KNOW

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has an excellent accounting of the Phase 2 regulations here

Table capacity: During Phase 2, indoor and outdoor dining is limited to 25 percent capacity, table size is limited to parties of 6 people from two households and tables must be at least six feet between seated customers. 

Service rules: Liquor service ends at 11 p.m. in Phase 2, but food can continue being served (some restaurants might not opt to do that, though).

Masks: Diners must wear face coverings anytime they aren’t actively eating or drinking. This includes during arrival and departure, while getting up and going to the restroom, and while seated at tables and talking. Yes, that’s right. Regs say you should have your mask on when you’re not actively eating/drinking, even while seated. Read more here, scroll to page 2, rule #5.

These are not regulations, but they are things I keep hearing (and hearing and hearing) from restaurant workers. Please make their job easier and:

Be kind: Keep in mind these regulations are not the fault of your server, host or restaurant owner. Be kind, tip big. Please and thank you.

Wear your mask when your server comes tableside: As a courtesy to servers and others who show up tableside, slip your mask back on while they’re in proximity to you. (And as stated above, the regs say you should keep your mask on when you’re not actively eating or drinking, even while seated.) 

Limit your stay: If your server asks you to limit your stay to 90 minutes, don’t fuss. Just do it. Get out in an hour and you’re doing them a solid. With fewer tables, there’s less turnover. With less turnover, there’s less of a chance to pay next month’s rent. Be diplomatic about it. 

RESTAURANT OWNERS/WORKERS: THINGS FOR YOU

Restaurant workers are now eligible for vaccinations (and so is everybody over the age of 16). Find more information here: https://www.tpchd.org/home/showpublisheddocument?id=8823

Here’s a general overview of state guidelines for restaurants, taverns, breweries and other food establishments: https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/COVID19%20Eating%20and%20Drinking%20Establishment%20Guidance.pdf

The Washington State Liquor Cannabis Board has some handy advice here for serving and seating options: https://lcb.wa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/temp_links/Updated-COVID-Dining-Options-Licensing-Staff.pdf

The rollback brings back something we haven’t discussed for months – open-air dining. I wrote a story about that in January, as a refresher: https://dinepiercecounty.com/2021/01/16/some-pierce-county-restaurants-open-dining-rooms-under-new-open-air-rules/

Restaurant owners, here’s an updated one sheet on open-air dining and what’s allowed, with a FAQ at the end, which you might find helpful:  https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/COVID19%20Outdoor%20Open%20Air%20Seating%20Guidance.pdf

Here’s the state’s announcement about the rollback: https://medium.com/wagovernor/inslee-announces-three-counties-to-rollback-to-phase-2-19d2bde8b8ad

NEED HELP? GET A GRANT. HERE’S HOW 

There are two grant programs open to Tacoma and Pierce County restaurants right now. Here are details: 

FOR TACOMA RESTAURANT OWNERS

$10,000 Resiliency Grants are now available for Tacoma micro businesses that have suffered hardships due to Covid-19. This program is administered by the City of Tacoma. The application deadline is April 23, 2021, to be considered. 

Apply here: http://ow.ly/cXRS50EkVB2

Things to know: You’ll need to show evidence of a year-over-year loss from 2019 and 2020. Eligible applicants will be entered into a lottery and notified on May 11 of an award, if any. 

FOR PIERCE COUNTY RESTAURANT OWNERS 

$10,000  2021 Rollback Relief Grant are now available for businesses impacted by recently modified Covid-19 restrictions. This program is administered by Pierce County. The application deadline is 5 p.m. April 23, 2021, to be considered. 

Apply herehttps://www.piercecountywa.gov/7239/2021-Rollback-Relief-Grant

Things to know: Be an independent restaurant (not a chain or franchise) and food establishments must not have a drive-through to qualify. Other businesses are eligible for these grants. Update: Restaurants are excluded from the 20 employee limit threshold that other small businesses must meet.

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