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Canlis restaurant embarks on its next new venture: The Crab Shack

Dining room manager, Amandalynn Sullivan, takes an order at the drive through service at the Canlis restaurant on March 16, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Canlis, a Seattle restaurant known for fine dining, closed its dining room in March as it recognized that fine dining was “not what Seattle needs right now.” Since then, the family owned restaurant has come up with a number of new, fun ideas from drive-ins to drive-through to keep customers interested as the pandemic stretches on.

This week, Canlis is about to embark on its next new venture: The Canlis Crab Shack.

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In March, when restaurants and bars in Washington state were forced to close due to COVID-19, Canlis pivoted to a breakfast bagel shed and a burger drive-thru for lunch, and family meal delivery service for dinner. While the bagels and burgers are gone, the family meals are still offered.

Canlis previously held virtual “Friday Night Bingo,” where participants would be eligible by purchasing a family meal, CSA box, or bottle service, or could send in their name and address to receive a bingo card, no purchase necessary. Piano performances in the dining room are also streamed live many nights on Youtube.

“Canlis has got a great PR team because I haven’t seen any other restaurant get as much press as Canlis,” John Curley said. “… You saw so many restaurants either just fold up and go away, or fall back onto their heels, and … struggle to come up with something. Canlis is young, dynamic, they’re really powerful on social media. And they said, ‘OK, what can we do? How can we adjust? How can we continue to sell?'”

The Canlis Crab Shack opens Thursday, July 16, but reservations are required.

“Even though they’re allowed to, [owners] say you can’t make enough money on a 50% capacity, so they’re going to turn their restaurant, in effect, inside out make it a crab feast,” Tom Tangney explained. “And they brought in tons of sand. They positioned an old dinghy or something … for decor, and all the outdoor tables are going to be at least six feet apart.”

There will be fewer waiters and waitresses, and owners are trying to determine a way to signal that you need service to limit interactions as much as possible. Of course, as is a statewide mandate, masks will be required at all times when not at your table, and all staff members will be wearing masks.

“And temperature checks — for not only [customers], but the staff,” Tangney said. “Imagine you had set up a reservation and you arrive there and your temperature, maybe a hot day, your temperature’s up. You’d miss out on your reservation and service, but you’re safe.”

“‘A temperature check is the new dress code,'” Curley added, reading a quote from co-owner Mark Canlis in The Seattle Times.

No guests with a temperature over 100.4 Fahrenheit will be admitted, nor will anyone in their party, according to Canlis’ website. The reservation will be cancelled and the entire party fully refunded.

“I wonder if you can wear shorts there, a bathing suit,” Tangney said.

Tickets for the Canlis Crab Shack for the week of July 28 to August 1 will go on sale July 22 at 1 p.m.

Listen to the Tom and Curley Show weekdays from 3 – 7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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