Robert Whale, Auburn Reporter
John Gronowski makes his usual brewskie stop at Rail Hop n’ Brew on West Main, undeterred by having to drink al fresco under Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest order forbidding indoor service at bars and restaurants to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Robert Whale, Auburn Reporter John Gronowski makes his usual brewskie stop at Rail Hop n’ Brew on West Main, undeterred by having to drink al fresco under Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest order forbidding indoor service at bars and restaurants to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Downtown bars and restaurants reeling under Inslee order

City of Auburn offering $2,000 grants to qualifying businesses without drive -through windows.

Like other restaurant and bar owners clinging to life in the wake of Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest orders forbidding indoor dining, Giovanni Di Quattro has run out of fingernails and is hanging on by the quick.

Di Quattro, owner of Auburn’s Rainbow Cafe, has already laid off his employees and is filling take-out orders on his own.

Outdoor seating would help, said Di Quattro, but his calculations tell him that the weeks he would use to apply for and get the permits from the city of Auburn would cost him revenue he absolutely cannot afford to lose.

And while Inslee is offering small business loans, Di Quattro says, that is not a long-term solution.

“That is not sustainable money. Inslee says he is offering $50 million, but $30 million of that is loans, We’re having a hard time making it as it is. We can’t keep borrowing money, borrowing money, because it all has to be paid back sometime, and just the loans will put us under,” Di Quattro said.

Meantime, The Sun Break Cafe is open for take-out breakfast only, and open on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.

Vinifera on Auburn Way South is closed for the time being.

Billy Jack Newman at Rail Hop and Brew on West Main is lucky to have take-out windows, and has set up tables and chairs outside with a heat lamp, but that cannot make up for the losses.

Last Thursday, the city of Auburn sent an email to restaurants and bars without drive -through windows offering $2,000 grants.

On Monday of last week, seven state senators and two representatives of a group of Democratic state lawmakers wrote Inslee, asking that he consider replacing his ban on indoor dining with stricter limits on how many people restaurants and bars can serve inside at any one time.

In the letter, the lawmakers 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,” the letter says.

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

Cheryl Sluys Rakes. president of the Downtown Auburn Cooperative, has spent the last weeks trying to figure out how to help businesses like these. She is painfully aware they won’t survive much longer.

The DAC cannot step in with any downtown events, she said, though it did put on a drive-through Halloween event for kids that was such a success, the coopoerative is thinking about doing it again for Christmas, in addition to scouting out alternatives.

“It’s frustrating to try to figure out what you can do to help them until then,” said Sluys. “If we don’t get the government’s help, I think there’ll be a lot more closings.”


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