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Washington is now in Phase 3 of reopening — here’s what that means

A mural in Seattle's Capitol hill neighborhood. (MyNorthwest photo)

As of Monday, all of Washington state has now moved into Phase 3 of reopening, affording restaurants and other indoor spaces more flexibility with looser restrictions.

Gov. Inslee announces Phase 3 guidelines, reopening of sports

Governor Inslee announced the specifics of the much-anticipated Phase 3 of the Healthy Washington recovery plan in early March.

Phase 3 allows up to 50% occupancy for indoor spaces, such as restaurants, retails, gyms and fitness centers, and movie theaters, and up to 400 people for indoor and outdoor activities, as long as physical distancing and masking are enforced.

While remote work is still “strongly encouraged” wherever it’s possible, companies will be able to bring employees back at 50% capacity.

On the professional sports side, this means the Mariners will get to welcome back a limited number of fans in person on Opening Day.

Outdoor events at facilities with permanent seating can have also up to 25% capacity for fans who physically distance and wear masks. That includes high school and youth sports, motorsports, rodeos, and other similar outdoor spectator events.

In Phase 3, indoor theater and performing arts venues can continue to host shows, provided they have assigned seating, with individual groups of up to 15 people (provided they’re from a maximum of two households). Artists on stage must be distanced from the audience by at least 20 feet, with a three-hour time limit on all performances in Phase 3.

The caveat is that dancing is prohibited, severely limiting the ability of nightclubs to function in any sort of traditional way.

Gov. Inslee’s office did clarify that nightclubs could reopen “if they can reconfigure their business operations” to comply with the state’s “Eating and Drinking Establishment” guidance. That would make it so clubs would be limited to table seating of no more than six people each, spaced out six feet apart. Alcohol service would have to end at midnight, and standing and dancing would still be prohibited.

Washington nightlife remains in reopening holding pattern

Outdoor venues like the iconic Gorge Amphitheatre are similarly limited in their ability to reopen, with the state’s rules regarding outdoor events requiring “permanent, individual designated seating.” Under Phase 3, “open, unreserved seating” for outdoor venues is still not permitted. Barring the installation of that seating, the Gorge “would not be allowed to reopen” under the state’s current guidance.

Live musical performances without permanent seating do have one potential avenue to resume, though, with drive-in concerts permitted in Washington, provided they adhere to guidance laid out for drive-in theaters and outdoor performing arts.

KIRO Radio reporter Hanna Scott contributed to this story

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