Gig Harbor restaurant owner says ‘it’s time that we start turning that dial up’

Feb 2, 2021, 11:07 AM | Updated: Feb 16, 2021, 4:28 pm
pizzeria, restaurant rules...
Pizzeria Fondi in Gig Harbor has been adapting to the changing rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Pizzeria Fondi on Facebook)
(Photo courtesy of Pizzeria Fondi on Facebook)

With all the different phases and frequently changing rules intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 over the past year in Washington state, many small business and restaurant owners are frustrated. Chris Olsen, owner of Pizzeria Fondi in Gig Harbor, sent a letter to KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross and provided some insight as to what local restaurant owners have been dealing with during the pandemic.

Criticism of Washington’s Phase 2 include unpredictability, inaccurate metrics

“I’ve been open this entire year. We’ve been flexible and trying to make everything work through all of the different stages of this last year,” Olsen explained.

He did give a shoutout to the economic specialists and the economic development department in Pierce County, which he says has been helpful in distributing money from the CARES Act and taking care of small businesses and restaurants in Pierce County.

“I cannot say enough about how wonderful they are, from creative thinking to something called a Restaurant Rally, which actually fell right in the middle of the shutdown in November,” Olsen said. “… They’ve done many different things from handing out air scrubbers, handing out PPE, gloves, face masks, sanitizer.”

“There’s just been an increased cost of everything this entire year,” Olsen continued. “And so my frustration is back in March, we laid off half of our team. They were all from the front of the house. And many of our people in the restaurants are younger or in school, and so they don’t get any stimulus from the federal government because they’re in education or because their parents claimed them the prior year on their taxes. And you’ve heard through the news, there’s been many delays in unemployment.”

It’s heartbreaking, Olsen says, to have employees begging you to come back to work.

“Three of our people literally moved out for the very first time on their own the beginning of March, right when COVID and the shutdown first started, and now they’re out of a job,” he said. “So it’s been a challenge.”

Additionally, Olsen says it’s hard to see grocery stores open at 25% with so much square footage that they’ll rarely, if ever, reach the capacity limit, even in their busiest times, yet local businesses and restaurants can’t open.

“The day after the Seahawks lost the playoffs, super sad, I happened to be at the local Costco, and there was 300 people in line for checkout,” Olsen said. “TVs going out the door. People spending their stimulus checks. And the local businesses here are closed.”

What does Olsen think the state should have done?

“That is a good question. And right now, I would say as an example where you’re watching, Oregon has been open for a little while, California recently reopened. Chicago, Michigan, and New York are all reopening,” he said. “I think the small dial that everyone keeps talking about, I think it’s time that we start turning that dial up. There’s going to be some risk, but if we all wear our masks — we’ve all been doing this for a year, we all know how to make it work.”

“We have the playbook, open the playbook, pull it back out,” he added. “But I think there’s a way to open up your restaurants, and I don’t think 25% is enough. I think it needs to be closer to 50%.”

Hopefully, Olsen says, in two weeks from now, Pierce County and its neighbors in the Puget Sound region will get to remain in Phase 2.

“On February 15, when the new checklists come out for the different regions of Washington, it would be very sad to see the Puget Sound and the West districts shut down from something that they were already working on,” he said. “People need to work and people need to pay their bills.”

Ballard restaurant owner: Thankfully surviving due to ‘very loyal customers’

He does not think shutting down the restaurants again should be an option.

“… I’ve reopened my dining room five times this year,” he said. “That is a huge undertaking and a challenge every single time.”

He’s expressed this to authority and public officials, but says it doesn’t seem like anyone is willing to listen, including the governor. That said, he’s optimistic that there are better days ahead.

“The weather here in Washington is wonderful, and wet, and gray, and sunshine is coming down the road. So there’s the light at the end of the tunnel, as well as the vaccines,” he said. “… There’s a lot of hope in the future as to what’s going on.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross

Governor Kevin Stitt (R-OK) speaks during a roundtable at the White House (Getty Images)...
Dave Ross

Ross: Why Oklahoma’s stance on abortion will echo throughout the country

12 states have trigger laws that take effect if Roe v Wade is overturned – and Oklahoma is one of them.
8 hours ago
Katie Wussler, a program coordinator at Mother & Child Education Center, checks the lot number on a...
Dave Ross

Ross: Baby formula shortage puts new mothers in difficult spot

I’m having trouble accepting that the US is dealing with a baby formula shortage – especially when the main advice is do NOT try to make your own.
3 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: Are vasectomies the best form of birth control?

A Tweet caught my attention because it was a sketch for a short story about a world where abortions aren’t necessary.
4 days ago
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) (Getty Images)...
Dave Ross

Ross: A dip in the stock market asks us to look at our savvy non-investments

The way stocks have been melting over the past 16 months, those of us with the courage to open the monthly statement are wondering how low can they go…
5 days ago
(Getty Images)...
Dave Ross

Ross: Are Americans ready for Big Tech to eliminate passwords?

Apple, Google, and Microsoft announce that they have joined the FIDO alliance: FIDO stands for Fast Identity Online, and its mission is to end password hacking.
6 days ago
Elon Musk attends The 2022 Met Gala (Getty Images)...
Dave Ross

Ross: The different levels of for-profit media

I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that there are media businesses not dependent on billionaires.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Gig Harbor restaurant owner says ‘it’s time that we start turning that dial up’