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Indoor dining returns to Washington but not all restaurants qualify

KOMO-TV Seattle logo KOMO-TV Seattle 1/20/2021 Joel Moreno, KOMO News Reporter
a group of people sitting at a table © Provided by KOMO-TV Seattle

Restaurants around the state are taking advantage of new rules that now allow for limited indoor dining. 

However, not every business will benefit from this because what’s needed is a building that promotes cross-ventilation naturally.

People who savor the Southwest cuisine at Cactus can now enjoy the ambiance of dining indoors as well. Cactus can offer limited seating inside at six of its seven locations.

“This restaurant is really great for it because we have some open doors and then we also have a series of windows and a double door down on the other end,” said Cactus director of operations Jonathan Klitgaard, referring to the South Lake Union location.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued the new rules last week and they allow restaurants to seat customers inside so long as there are enough open windows and roll-up or bay doors to keep the air circulating.

Depending on the floor plan some restaurants will have to install CO2 monitors and consistently keep the levels below 450 parts per million. There are other requirements for permeable walls depending on the restaurant’s layout. Restaurants must still keep total capacity at no more than 25 percent. The new requirements can be found here.

“It shouldn't be so tough," said Nick Crandall, owner of Railroad Pub & Pizza in Burlington. "We're just trying to open up our doors."

Crandall relies on five big garage door windows to recreate that open-air dining experience. He’s grateful for loyal customers and any loosening of the rules, but pointed out things can get pretty cold and drafty this time of year.

“We didn't open up a business to do to-go and just focus on outside dining when it's 40 degrees and raining,” Crandall said.

The new guidelines are clear that entrance and exit doors alone are not enough. The air flow must also be natural and not driven by an HVAC system. If those conditions are met, then indoor and outdoor dining can be on the menu.

“So people really have the choice of whatever is the most comfortable for them," Klitgaard said.

The Washington Hospitality Association welcomes the changes but said many restaurants will still be left behind.

“I think it's a good step,” said Anthony Anton, the president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association. “I think we are positive about it but for many people it's not going to work. Some areas won't be able to hit the CO2 readings. Some will have buildings where they simply can't get the windows or the other things in the right place."

The Washington Hospitality Association is hosting a webinar at 10 a.m. on Friday about the new indoor seating requirements.

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