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Phase 2: Customers were ready but some businesses still need time

Ye Olde Barbershop entrance with Phase 2 Safe Start protocal signage (June 6, 2020). Photo: My Ferndale News

FERNDALE, Wash. — Yesterday’s announcement that Whatcom County had been approved to enter Phase 2 of the state’s Safe Start plan had businesses scrambling to reopen and restaurants scrambling to reopen their dining areas for the first time in months. Businesses were scrambling to not only clean, order inventory and schedule employees but also implement new state-mandated health protocols and train employees to follow them.

During Phase 2, restaurants can, while following guidance from the state, serve customers in their dining areas. Under Phase 1, restaurants were restricted to only providing to-go and delivery service. Under Phase 2, restaurants can open at 50% capacity, but without bar seating.

Cedars Restaurant, located at 2019 Main Street, was the only restaurant seen with open doors on Main Street Friday night, June 5th, the day of the announcement. Cedars Restaurant Co-Owner Kalliopi Pantoleon said with a smile visible through her cloth mask, “It went as well as could be expected.” Cedars had been providing curbside pickup service for weeks prior.

Other Ferndale area restaurants reported they would be opening their dining areas in the days following Friday’s announcement.

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Some restaurant owners spoke with My Ferndale News concerned about challenges they face while trying to stock up on foods like meat, cheese and eggs. They were also concerned about disappointing customers and the reduced earnings potential due to only being able operate below their capacity. That concern was not limited to just restaurant businesses.

Other businesses are required to implement protocols for cleaning and sanitizing between customer visits. In the case of health and professional services businesses, individual customers may be asked to make appointments ahead of time and remain outside the business until being invited in. This will result in reduced capacity to serve as many customers was possible prior to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Hot Dogz & Kool Catz Owner Kathleen Vetter said she was excited to be reopening this morning. She told My Ferndale News outside her business, located at 5677 3rd Avenue, about having to reduce the number of clients they can see in a day and investing in a supply of personal protection equipment (PPE) including disposable gowns, masks and face shields.

Vetter is fortunate, according to some businesses, in having been able to locate and stock up on PPE items. At least 1 therapeutic massage business says they are having to put off opening until they can find an affordable source of PPE items.

Curbside service is likely to become the new standard for at least 1 Ferndale area restaurant. New Mexico Tamale Company Co-owner Dora Ruiz said this morning she has decided not to reopen her dining area. “It was just too small, and I needed to expand into it anyways,” Ruiz told My Ferndale News outside her business, located at 5687 3rd Avenue, this morning.

Ruiz said during recent weeks of providing curbside service she discovered it provided a major value for many of her customers. “I saw parents having to unbuckle kids just to come in, get their order and then have to go back to their car and buckle them all back up again. Being able to pull up, let us know they’re here and have their order brought out is so much quicker and easier, for everyone, especially in bad weather.”

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