As you know, Gov. Inslee announced several statewide restrictions to help curb the spread of coronavirus, taking effect on Nov. 18, 2020. The restrictions include prohibiting dine-in for restaurants.

This is the second wave of dine-in closures severely impacting the restaurant industry. Restaurants were previously closed for dine-in for over 12 weeks, starting March 15 and have been operating at limited dine-in capacity since the closure.

Dine-in accounts for 50 to 75 percent of the revenue for restaurants, leading to short falls of over 50 percent since March.

Many local restaurants have exhausted their options.

Most, including Bite Box of Queen Anne, have applied for the Payroll Protection Program provided by the Small Business Administration, deferred payments for employee Social Security tax provided by the IRS, applied for state and county grants, deferred rental payments to their landlords, and applied for banks loans.

The recent shutdown that went into effect did so without a plan of support on the part of our local government.

Many restaurants will not survive this second closure without such a plan.

Historically, the restaurant industry operates with slim margins, averaging 5 percent profits. Restaurant operating costs have increased exponentially due to COVID-19. The cost to purchase take-out packaging has increased up to 3.5 times pre-COVID-19. Most restaurants in Seattle are offering take-out only. For these restaurants, 100 percent of the meals sold require to-go packaging. The increased cost per take-out package translates to restaurants making less on every meal sold.

COVID-19 has also introduced other new costs, further eroding into already thin margins.

Restaurants are now required to purchase personal protective equipment for essential employees and spend additional funds to clean their restaurants with greater attention and care during the pandemic. Insurance costs have also increased for the industry to offset the risks of operating a small business at this time. For example, Bite Box recently had the glass of the front door broken into and the cash register removed from their establishment. Some of these costs were not covered by insurance, eating even further into profits.

Although outdoor dining is permitted, this may or may not be feasible for some Seattle restaurants due to rain and the lack of outdoor infrastructure. Many restaurants have experienced low cashflow for the past eight months, making it very difficult for them to spend additional capital on outdoor seating. This includes the cost of creating public spaces on the street, purchasing/installing covers for outdoor dining set-ups, lights, electricity and heaters for the winter months.

To support small businesses, with Bite Box specifically in mind, we propose the following to the Seattle City Council:

1. Waive sales tax on small businesses and restaurants for the foreseeable future.

2. Waive property tax collection for commercial real-estate housing restaurants for the foreseeable future.

3. Waive sales tax on capital equipment supporting the restaurant industry within Seattle/Washington State, stabilizing the costs of to-go containers and products.

4. Establish tax refunds and/or subsidies for businesses who must buy to-go products, personal protective equipment and outdoor seating equipment at increased volumes during the shutdown.

These proposals could potentially have an immediate impact, helping small businesses, like Bite Box, survive this very difficult time. I strongly urge you to contact me if I can help to advocate further for these proposals (please find my contact info below). Thank you again for your time and consideration.

Noah Dorson

noahdorson@gmail.com