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Clark County businesses wait for Phase 2 entry while application is still paused

Under Phase 2 of Washington state's reopening plan restaurants would be able to seat up to fifty percent capacity inside the restaurant

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Joe Brown's Cafe along Main Street has been around since the 1930s. Owners and staff say on a normal Friday morning, every seat in their small dining area would normally be full, but these days nothing is normal. The small cafe can only do take-out orders until Clark County enters Phase 2.

General manager Sean Reardon says Fridays are pretty good business. Normally bringing in around $1,600. 

"Today we'll be lucky if we get $300 or $400. It's not so good."

Clark County's Phase 2 application was put on hold after 85 people connected with Firestone Pacific Foods tested positive for coronavirus; 70 were workers, the other 15 close contacts.

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"We were a bit thrown by it, very frustrated. Right now we need to have at least half capacity to at least break even," Reardon said.

Under Phase 2, restaurants would be able to seat diners inside up to half the normal capacity; bar seating would not be allowed.

"We have a small place as it is, so we'll be lucky to have 3 tables available inside. Couple of small ones. No one can sit at the bar counter according to the rules. We're looking at less than half capacity for that effect. We're looking at 25 percent capacity when we reopen to just follow their rules," Reardon said.

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Late Friday afternoon, the city of Vancouver announced it was launching a new program called the Streets Eat Program, to help with that issue.

Under the program, restaurants could apply for a free permit to create seating in public streetside parking spots to create more social distancing between customers and add extra seats.

Right next door to Joe Brown's Cafe is Pacific House, a 99-seat restaurant and bar that has been closed down for two months. 

Shane Work, owner of the restaurant's two locations, says they reopened to see how things would work on a trial basis.

"We just wanted to get back, get some employees back in here, get them back in the groove of things, get comfortable wearing masks and gloves, and just go through and get everything set up and reorganize for reopening."

Work says when Clark County's Phase 2 application was put on hold he was disappointed.

"I know a lot of restaurants and businesses were gearing up for the fifty percent reopen and had already ordered a lot of product. You know, perishables, meats. I think that was a little hit for some businesses."

Clark County Public Health says Washington State Department of Health has not given the county any guidance on what needs to happen in order to enter Phase 2. The state says it is still in communication with the county, but had nothing new to add and would hopefully know more next week.

Firestone Pacific Foods had hoped to restart operations by May 28, but that didn't happen. The County said Firestone won't be able to restart production until at least the first week of June, but didn't set a timeline.

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