State Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) authored the letter to Gov. Jay Inslee. Mullet represents the 5th Legislative District. File photo

State Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) authored the letter to Gov. Jay Inslee. Mullet represents the 5th Legislative District. File photo

Democratic lawmakers ask Inslee to lift ban on indoor dining

They want to try to scaling back on occupancy before forcing an end to inside service.

OLYMPIA — A group of Democratic state lawmakers wants Gov. Jay Inslee to consider replacing his ban on indoor dining with stricter limits on how many people restaurants and bars can serve inside at any one time.

Seven senators and two representatives sent Inslee a letter Monday in which they agreed on the need to respond to a recent explosion in coronavirus infections. But, they wrote, shutting down indoor service “is not the right first step” because it will put thousands out of work and damage the food service and accommodation industry.

“While we understand that the current trajectory of COVID cases is unsustainable and that a pullback is necessary and appropriate to save lives, the impacts of this specific measure will leave lasting holes in the economic and cultural fabric of every community across the state,” reads the letter, which was delivered to the governor Monday.

They ask the governor to consider letting restaurants operate at 25% of their indoor capacity. They also suggest that he reinstate limits on how many people can sit at one table and require only people from the same household to eat together.

Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, who owns a pizza restaurant, authored the letter. Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, signed on. So, too, did Sens. Christine Rolfes of Bainbridge Island, chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and Rebecca Saldana of Seattle, the Senate deputy majority leader.

“We’ve got to try to find a compromise here,” Hobbs said. “We don’t want the pandemic to spread. We don’t want businesses to fail. This could be a solution.”

Inslee imposed the ban on indoor seating Sunday, along with several other restrictions intended to slow and reverse the rise in new cases. Those measures include the closure of gyms, bowling alleys, movie theaters and indoor activities at museums, aquariums and zoos. Attendance at weddings and funerals is capped at 30 people, and no receptions are allowed.

All the restrictions, including the indoor seating prohibition, are in effect through Dec. 14. Restaurants can still do takeout and serve customers outdoors at tables with a limit of five people.

The governor has said he will work with lawmakers to ease the impact on workers. He’s also announced he will use $50 million of the state’s allotment of federal CARES Act dollars to help businesses in the hardest-hit industries. Of the total, $20 million will be for short-term cash assistance and the remainder available as loans.

Inslee has defended the indoor service ban as a proven step in helping blunt the virus’ spread. He cites the rapid decline in new cases after he issued a similar ban in March. At the time, the state did not have a mask mandate nor much experience with safety protocols for restaurants.

“We are strongly persuaded by the science of COVID-19,” wrote Inslee press secretary Mike Faulk in an email. “Beyond the published science on outbreaks at restaurants, we know both anecdotally and based on how the virus spreads that it’s clear indoor situations where people aren’t wearing masks (restaurants) or are creating a lot of aerosolized particles through heavy breathing (working out) are inherently higher risk.”

Lawmakers said they were surprised by the governor’s action on the indoor seating ban. They contend that recent data show that restaurants are not fueling the latest surge in cases, largely because of strict adherence to safety protocols.

Inslee will meet with some of the letter-signers Friday afternoon, Mullet said.

“I want to have a policy discussion,” he said.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

File photo
Snow Lake, located near Snoqualmie Pass in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Washington releases new forest plan

It outlines ways the state will protect and maintain forest health.

Sage Viniconis is a career performing artist in King County who’s been out of work and seeking creative outlets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy photo/Sage Viniconis
Puget Sound artists adapt creativity, and business sense, to pandemic

Artists Sunday is an online directory that connects artists across the county, state and nation.

Chris Fagan trekking across Antarctica in 2014. Contributed by Chris Fagan
South Pole or Bust

The story of a North Bend couple who trekked across Antarctica.

King County Council has nine members who each represent a district. Courtesy of kingcounty.gov
King County Council passes $12.59 billion biennial budget

King County Council on Nov. 17 passed a $12.59 billion biennial budget… Continue reading

pexels
EvergreenHealth receives stroke care certification

The hospital system was able to demonstrate quality care and an advanced stroke program

State Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) authored the letter to Gov. Jay Inslee. Mullet represents the 5th Legislative District. File photo
Democratic lawmakers ask Inslee to lift ban on indoor dining

They want to try to scaling back on occupancy before forcing an end to inside service.

Tim Eyman get in some last minute campaigning for I-976 in downtown Bellevue on the afternoon of Nov. 5, 2019. File photo
Eyman fights allegation he repeatedly broke campaign laws

In a lawsuit, the state accuses the prolific initiative promoter of getting kickbacks.

Kabal Gill, owner of East India Grill in Federal Way, wears gloves to hand over take-out orders at his restaurant. File photo
State halts indoor service at bars, restaurants, home guests

Amid soaring new coronavirus cases and an overburdened health care system, the state’s clamping down.

t
McGovern completes his wish by shopping for young patients

Mercer Island teen visits Macy’s in Bellevue.

Most Read