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'It's like opening a brand new restaurant': Reviving Spokane's businesses will be no small feat

Spokane County leaders hope to enter phase two of reopening as soon as this week, meaning restaurants could go from takeout-only to 50 percent capacity.

SPOKANE, Wash — On Tuesday, Governor Jay Inslee announced that Spokane County will be one of many medium-sized counties allowed to apply for a waiver to enter phase two of reopening.

That means restaurants and other businesses could open up at 50 percent capacity soon; local leaders hope as soon as this weekend.

Eat Good Group owns nearly a dozen restaurants in the Inland Northwest, and being forced into takeout-only service crippled revenue, forcing a series of layoffs.

For Adam Hegsted and many other business owners, the recent announcement is the light at the end of the tunnel. 

"Right now we're pretty positive, because we've survived through the takeout and delivery phase," said Hegsted. "We stopped the bleeding."

Even before the announcement, Eat Good had begun preparations for reopening roughly two weeks ago, anticipating a possible June 1 date. 

"We took a little bit of a break and were able to reset the restaurants, really deep clean, get everything spotless in there," said Hegsted.

Now, depending on how long the variance application process takes, that date could be pushed up. Hegsted says if that's the case, his company will be ready.

"[We're making] sure we have masks on hand, and gloves," he said. "Everything we can to try to ensure that we're not passing on any kind of sicknesses to anyone, and we're not getting it ourselves."

The preparations, though, of course go beyond health and safety protocols. The level of service is about to be suddenly and dramatically amplified.

"It's like opening a brand new restaurant," said Hegsted. "I mean that's essentially what we're doing, is we're taking our current operation and opening up a brand new restaurant again."

The company will begin reaching out to laid-off employees to see if they're ready to be hired back. The restaurants will also need to re-establish more regular supply chains so they have enough inventory to serve the returning customers.

"We're going to add a lot of the more favorite items back on, have a little bit bigger of a variety on the menus," said Hegsted. "So we've got to get all those items prepped up. We've got to get our... cocktail programs up and running again, [and] all our employee levels back up."

Part of the challenge is also the uncertainty; Hegsted says he isn't sure exactly what percentage of the clientele will come back right away.

Of course, that uncertainty is preferable to the uncertainty of whether or not the restaurants will survive long enough to open their doors again.

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