New limits on restaurants and bars that began Thursday include a 10 p.m. cut-off for alcoholic drinks and no dining inside with nonhousehold members.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued the new guidance on eating and drinking establishments last week in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases statewide.

Other changes restrict taverns, breweries, wineries and distilleries from seating patrons inside unless they offer food service that meets certain requirements, and a ban on both bar seating and game areas.

The restrictions will remain in place until Phase 4 of reopening, a process that Inslee has paused indefinitely.

For the Brown Lantern Ale House in Anacortes, a tavern and restaurant, the rule requiring alcohol service to end at 10 p.m. will hurt the business the most, said owner Cheryl Rogers. 

"We're a local bar that from 10 on people congregate here and sit and talk," she said. "Our business after 10 is good."

Rogers said while the new rule will cause employees to lose tip money, she supports it because it will discourage congregating, which she has seen in the restaurant's beer garden.

"I think this is a good thing, anything to keep those numbers (of cases) down," she said.

In Birdsview, Birdsview Brewery is able to continue indoor dining because it serves food, but can only fit four tables inside with physical distancing, said operations manager Jessie Mattingly. She said luckily the brewery has lots of space for outdoor seating.

"Right now it's great but come fall and winter when the weather turns and we have four tables inside restricted to household members only, it's going to impact us really hard," she said.

Mattingly said the restaurant has installed signs informing patrons about the rule banning indoor dining with nonhousehold members.

"It's going to be hard to enforce," she said. "I can ask people 'do you live in in the same household?' and if they say 'yes,' then what?"

For Valley Shine Distillery in Mount Vernon, which is also a restaurant, the biggest challenges are the existing 50% capacity rule and fact that fewer are eating out, said owner Ben Lazowski.

"On busy days like Friday and Saturday nights, we can only operate at limited capacity, but it takes more than 50% capacity (staff) to operate a restaurant," he said.

To add outdoor seating, he said, the downtown restaurant would have to expand onto the sidewalk, which would require a permit. He said he doesn't see much opportunity for outdoor seating unless the city of Mount Vernon closes First Street to vehicle traffic.

Updated COVID-19 statistics for Skagit County were not available on the Skagit County Public Health website by the Skagit Valley Herald’s deadline Friday night.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison:, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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