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U District restaurant shut down for violating COVID capacity limits

KOMO-TV Seattle logo KOMO-TV Seattle 5/5/2021 KOMO News Staff
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A popular restaurant and bar is closed in Seattle's University District for 'operating in a manner that creates an immediate health hazard' - that's according to a King County Public Health team.

The temporary shutdown is linked to COVID safety procedures. 

For most of the day Flowers Restaurant and Bar on the corner of University Way and NE 43rd Street was dark, the front door locked, the restaurant closed.

"I think it's quite fair to close them down if they're disregarding regulations," said Jarod, who works in the University District and was lunching outside the restaurant at a picnic table along 43rd Street.

According to a letter from a food inspection unit of Public Health Seattle & King County, the food establishment was inspected Friday and their food permit suspended Monday.

The unit cited three covid related violations.

"Punishing people, I think it goes beyond...it feels like it's too extreme," said a recent UW graduate. He now works nearby but didn’t want to show his face on camera or reveal his name - he was worried he might face retaliation for his opinion, but thought it was important to share it.

Flowers compliance history is outlined a letter to its owners - explaining the violations, suspension and steps to permit reinstatement.

It notes a complaint made against the restaurant back in August, an inspection in October, a plan to move forward in February and then three more complaints lodged against the restaurant last month.

An inspection following the latest complaints found failure to comply with: face coverings for customers and staff, occupancy limits and social distancing.

KOMO spoke with both owners by phone, who declined an on camera interview - the husband and wife team said they think the violations are exaggerated and the penalty not fair.

"It's so damaging," said one of the owners.

The other said he was not wearing a mask during when the inspection team showed up, but insists he had no customers at the time.

Don Blakeney hadn't heard of the closure until we told him. He was in the area, helping to set up outdoor public dining space in the block outside of Flowers.

"I think it's been really challenging for small businesses to find a way to operate in this environment of changing rules," said Blakeney, Executive Director of the U District Partnership.

The U District Partnership is a nonprofit that looks after the neighborhood and helps to organize 'clean and safe programs', 'creates business development and marketing' and on works on homeless concerns in the area.

"Flowers is interested in outdoor dining and we've been working with them to get this outdoor seating area that the whole neighborhood could use as a resource," said Blakeney.

Two rows of picnic tables now line the block outside Flowers and the neighboring food establishments. They just went up Monday after getting a fresh coat of aqua blue paint and shade umbrellas.

Blakeney said 30 University District restaurants hope to offer outdoor dining this summer.

"We want everybody to be safe...Hopefully people will continue to see this neighborhood as a place for lunch dinner and fun" said Blakeney.

As for Flowers, once in compliance - a review and approval of their COVID safety plan they can apply reopen. Right now their opening is listed as "pending."

"Flowers sounds like they will be open soon again, they are at the heart of this neighborhood so will be good to see them back open," said Blakeney.

A spokesperson for Public Health Seattle and King County said since July of last year only four other food establishments had their food permit suspended over covid safety violations.

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