Fate of Washington economy could hinge on face covering compliance

As we move into the holiday weekend, businesses lucky enough to still be open are also gearing up for yet another big change.

Starting next week businesses will be required to turn away customers who do not follow Governor Jay Inslee’s new state-wide face cover mandate.

Making sure The Westy Sports and Spirits bar remains squeaky clean has been job number one for co-owner Paul Ritums.

“We’re sitting here going above and beyond,” he said.

The West Seattle bar has been open about six years. Since the pandemic, the business’ life-line has been customers ordering take out. It’s not ideal for a sports bar, but it’s helped them hang on.

“We’re all learning day to day, there’s no playbook,” said Ritums who penned a letter describing the last few months inside WestsideSeattle.

Come Tuesday businesses across the state will be legally required to turn customers away who refuse to wear a face covering.

For the most part Ritums says customers have been on board.

“We’ve had a few people take issue with it,” he said.

Face coverings were already a requirement but next week the stakes and penalties increase.

Business owners are not on board with the requirement run the risk of losing valuable progress during an unprecedented economic crisis.

“If people are willing to take that risk and risk other people getting sick, people should be held account for it,” said Blake Ferguson.

Around Puget Sound many were spotted abiding by the order in an effort to avoid spreading covid, but some feel muzzled.

Last month Lewis County Sheriff Robert Snaza encouraged neighbors to ask critical questions regarding mandatory face coverings.

Plus, the owner of the Flower World nursery in Maltby plans to fight masks with a legal challenge, according to the Everett Herald.

“We still have to be smart about it, but it can go back,” said an optimistic Ritums.

For the sake of business owners, employees and the neighborhood in which he operates, Ritums hopes compliance will mean avoiding a possible second shutdown.

“We’ve already closed down once and we don’t want to do that again,” he said.