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L&I considers modification to indoor dining rules for well-ventilated restaurants

A tented area for outdoor restaurant dining stands empty on the first day of new stay-at-home orders on December 7, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries says the current COVID-19 dining rules in place statewide could soon be modified for restaurants that have good ventilation.

Nick Crandall, owner of Railroad Pub and Pizza in Burlington spoke with The Dori Monson Show on KIRO Radio earlier this week, explaining how he was forced to close his dining room due to COVID-19 restrictions surrounding indoor dining, even though he has open garage doors on three walls.

With all the garage doors open, Crandall says he has “plenty of airflow going through here.” However, because it’s a structure and not fully outdoor dining, the open garage door set-up didn’t currently fit within the allowed restrictions, and Crandall was told he’d have to close.

Now, L&I says it’s taking another look at the case and other, similar situations.

“There might be a permanent structure that doesn’t fit within the requirements today, but still may be doing a nice job with ventilation. And we’ll take those into account and see if there are changes that can be made,” said Tim Church, L&I spokesman.

He added that the department recognizes these decisions are urgent. In many cases, it could be the difference between a restaurant being able to open for limited capacity or not open at all.

“Everyone involved with this situation realizes that everything is urgent and needs to be figured out as quickly as possible,” Church said.

“We all go out to dinner, and do takeout, and want the businesses in our communities to survive so they’re there when this is all over someday,” he added. “We totally understand and empathize with the situation going on with these businesses. We absolutely do.”

Church previously told the Gee & Ursula Show on KIRO Radio that L&I employees care deeply about the health and safety of workers, which is part of the department’s mission.

“We’re doing our best to try and find that place where workers can be protected from this nasty virus, and businesses have a way to provide some services and employ some people when they can,” Church said.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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