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Brown Bear Car Wash drive-thru forced to remain closed

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Brown Bear Car Wash is currently shut down due to the stay-at-home order in place across Washington state. You can grab a coffee, stop by a pot store to pick up weed, and get a burger on your way home, but you can’t wash your car in a drive-thru.

“We’ve contacted Inslee’s office directly, been in contact with his special assistant, and the response has been dismissive,” said Lance Odermat, vice president of Brown Bear, on the Dori Monson Show. “They don’t want to hear the reasoning or logic, and we have been told that we are to remain closed under no uncertain terms.”

Listeners have texted Dori to say that the car wash at the convenience store or gas station near their house is still open. But these open car washes, Odermat said, are in defiance of the governor’s rules.

“Some of them may be able to plead ignorance, but I know for a fact some of our competitors are acutely aware of the directive we received, and they’re choosing to disregard it,” he said.

“With our longevity in the community, our reputation, I’m not gonna burn that,” he added. “And even though I disagree with the directive, we’re gonna adhere to the rule of law as it’s put out by Governor Inslee’s office.”

Odermat did hear that Costco’s car wash is now in compliance, though it previously had been open.

“We’re all waiting anxiously for further direction from Governor Inslee,” Odermat said.

At Brown Bear Car Wash, it is possible to get your car washed with no human interaction.

“Across our network, we’ve got these automated pay stations. You don’t even have to roll down your window if you’re one of our unlimited club members, and that’s about half our customer base,” Odermat said. “There’s no human interaction required, but yet they’ve deemed us non-essential.”

Odermat also said the Washington State Patrol is one of their largest fleet accounts. Pointing that out to the state did not help, and they were still told they can not open.

Meanwhile, as pollen counts are high and spring weather is in full swing, people are turning to washing cars in their driveway, pushing soap into the storm drains. According to its website, Brown Bear Car Wash promotes eco-friendly practices, uses less water, and ensures that the pollutants on cars do not go into waterways and storm drain systems.

“It’s not just the environment, it’s the economy,” Odermat said. “We’re losing huge sums of money and, I’ll point out, we’re keeping everybody on the payroll, and we don’t have a single minimum wage job. Every position in our company starts above minimum wage, and we’re continuing to eat those costs and take care of our people.”

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Brown Bear Car Wash was started by Odermat’s father in 1957.

“I think a lot of us in the business community are hanging on and hoping like crazy that there’s going to be some relief here today or tomorrow announced in these news conferences,” he said. “But if the order continues on unchanged, I really fear for the consequences of the local economy.”

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