King County council member wants more capacity for small businesses pending Phase 2 approval

SNOQUALMIE, Wash. -- As King County waits to see if the state will approve its application to enter Phase 2, County Council Member Kathy Lambert said Phase 2 isn't good enough for her district.

Lambert said she's fighting to keep "mom-and-pop" shops afloat in the Snoqualmie Valley by pushing Governor Jay Inslee to make an exception for stores in smaller towns with few COVID-19 cases.

"There are many emotions when people you care about feel they're going to lose their businesses, their homes, they won't have money for their children's food and they're going hungry," said Lambert.

She says her district -- comprised of Fall City, Duvall, Snoqualmie and North Bend -- has few cases of the virus, but is being hit just as hard economically as other parts of the county that have experienced severe outbreaks.

Lambert said what's really shocked her is learning under Phase 1.5, retail stores can only operate at 15% capacity. Under Phase 2, that'll be bumped up to 30%, where as restaurants will be allowed at 50%.

"It's hard to listen to people with that kind of devastation when with the flick of the governor's pen it could be changed, and I think its time we stop ignoring little cities," said Lambert.

She hopes to convince Inslee to let the retail stores in her district open up to 100%, while still following social distancing and PPE guidelines.

Lambert also said for cities like Snoqualmie with a population of just under 14,000 and 21 COVID-19 reported cases, the rules for retail should be far more flexible.

"This is my life, my livelihood," said Joelle Gibson, owner of a Snoqualmie gift shop.

It's small family businesses like hers that Lambert said she's fighting for.

Gibson's family opened their business 30 years ago, and she said it means everything to her.

"You just kind of do what it takes to get through, whatever that looks like, so that's what we're doing right now," Gibson said.

Gibson's dedication to her business is evident, as she managed to keep paying her employees without taking any income herself.

"I had my staff working, and I had to take a job full time at QFC in order to make ends meet for my family, that was a little bit tough."

She's thrilled to have her doors back open, but as of now she can only allow six customers in at a time, often times having to stand at the shop's door and turn people away.

Gibson questions whether her shop will survive post-COVID affects, but said it's too soon to say. The thought alone is painful and difficult to process for her.

"That makes me really emotional because it is important to our family, not just to my parents or sister, but to my family of employees. We have employees who've been with us for 17 years," said Gibson.

She and the Carousel family are staying positive and focusing on the incredible support they say they've gotten from the community they love so much.

"It's not going to be business as usual for quite some time, but we're hopeful."