King County restaurants can now open for dine-in business—with a lot more empty space.

Seattle, start your search engines. This morning, the state's health department gave King County the OK to immediately advance to a modified version of "phase one" as part of Washington's recovery to the coronavirus pandemic. Phase "1.5" includes, among other things, in-house restaurant seating, in-store retail, and haircuts (yours truly will be lining up for a snip at the crack of dawn). Some serious social distancing restrictions still apply, though, so don't be surprised if your favorite spot remains closed or in takeout mode for the considerable future—probably best to do some googling first. The specifics of our new normal, for the time being:

  • Restaurants can offer indoor dining now at 25 percent of their normal capacity. Outside, that bumps up to 50 percent. The county notes that businesses can apply for additional outdoor seating through their city governments. Whether alfresco or inside, tables must be at least six feet apart.
  • Nonessential retail stores can open their doors to shoppers, but their occupancies can't exceed 15 percent of capacity. They also need to keep customer visits to less than 30 minutes.
  • Goodbye, quarantine hair. Hello, long lines and waiting lists. Barbers, salons, and tattoo parlors can reopen but must limit their clientele to 25 percent of capacity (or one person in single-chair situations).
  • Professional services—"accountants, architects, attorneys, engineers, financial advisors, information technologists, insurance agents, tax preparers, and other office-based occupations that are typically serving a client base"—can return at a quarter of normal capacity.
  • All construction can resume.


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