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@redmond-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.redmond-reporter.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

Photo via Pexels
King County residents needed for first respiratory study using Apple watches

UW study to help find if devices can detect early warning signs of acute respiratory infections, such as COVID-19 and flu.

Photo courtesy of Johnson and Johnson (jnj.com)
Johnson & Johnson vaccine halted in Washington over side effect

Following federal guidance, Washington health care providers are temporarily pausing Johnson &… Continue reading

File Photo
High court ruling spurs effort to retool state’s drug laws

Meanwhile, the Blake decision has gotten people out jail, charges dismissed and possibly clemency for some.

The Monroe Correctional Complex on April 9, 2020. (Sound Publishing file photo)
Formerly incarcerated people regain right to vote in Washington

Rights restored immediately upon release.

Spring Chinook Salmon. Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Salmon update: King County wants cleaner water, more habitat

Salmon and orcas are in the spotlight once again as King County… Continue reading

Guns seized during April 7 arrests (photo credit: Dept. of Justice)
More than 20 arrested across the Puget Sound in drug distribution conspiracy

DOJ says law enforcement agencies seized over 70 guns and hundreds of thousands in cash.

Kindergarten and first grade students line up outside of Panther Lake Elementary in Federal Way on March 15. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror
Inslee: K-12 schools can reduce COVID social distancing

The governor reduced social distancing requirements for K-12 classrooms from 6 feet to 3 feet.

Sound Publishing file photo
More people can get the COVID vaccine on March 31, but supply is still limited

The number of people eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine is set… Continue reading

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. (Wikimedia Commons)
Insurers told to stop using credit scores to set rates

A ban of that practice will be in place until the pandemic is over, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says.

Bellevue police standoff. File photo
Eastside police agencies form independent use of force investigation team

Agencies from Snoqualmie to Mercer Island, along with the King County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Patrol, are slated to be part of it.

Rendered design for Together Center complex (Photo credit: Together Strong)
Ground broken on unprecedented model for affordable housing, health and social services in Redmond

Together Center promises 280 affordable housing units and over 20 service providers on-site.