Kitsap County businesses slowly move into Phase 2 of Safe Start plan towards COVID-19 recovery

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. - Kitsap County was approved to move forward to Phase 2 of the Safe Start Washington plan on Thursday. It is the state’s phased approach to reopen the economy and recreation towards COVID-19 recovery.

That same day, several businesses across the county jumped at the chance to welcome back customers. Other store owners said the slow return to normal definitely feels like navigating uncharted territory.

Business owners in Port Orchard said they are eager to get some revenue and start recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, but not at the expense of everyone’s safety. Suanne Martin Smith, owner of Home Made Café in Port Orchard, said her team is going to move into Phase 2 slowly and then adapt from there.

“People are afraid to come. A lot of people don’t have money,” said Martin Smith. “A lot of my staff have a lot of concerns. No one wants to get sick. My mom is 82, I don’t want to get my mama sick. That’s real life.”

Despite some concern, the restaurant owner said she is hopeful Phase 2 can bring the local economy some relief.

“Our country is hopefully getting back to somewhat normal,” said Martin Smith. “But it’s also frightening to follow all these rules, struggle to open up and not make money. So, the uncertainty is almost like a double-edged sword feeling.”

For restaurants, Phase 2 requires no more than 50 percent capacity, among other safety guidelines. Martin Smith said she understands some customers aren’t ready to be in the public just yet and worries that could get expensive for her restaurant.

“It costs a couple hundred bucks a day just to be open. And then you put staff on top of that and if we’re not getting that business…that’s my fear. So, that’s why we’re going to go slow,” said Martin Smith.

Home Made Café is going slow by offering outdoor dining in its courtyard only. Martin Smith said tables will be six feet apart with five people maximum at each. He staff will sanitize them after every use.

“We’re going to tell them where they can sit. So, it’s not going to be a free-for-all,” said Martin Smith.

Thursday was the first time Richard Wyatt turned his original barbershop light on in almost three months. He has been closed during the coronavirus outbreak but staying busy.

“I got a honey-do list a mile long but it’s real short now,” laughed Wyatt, owner of Rick’s Barbershop.

Wyatt has been a barber in Port Orchard for 59 years; his clients are second and third generations. His shop has stood strong even during the worst of times, but nothing like COVID-19.

“We’ve had flu epidemics and we’ve never had to close down. But then we were trained, in my era, we were trained on how to sterilize, sanitize,” said Wyatt.

The barber is ramping up those old school cleaning practices when he reopens again for Phase 2. Wyatt said he will spend two hours in between each client to sterilize everything in his shop down to the clippers. Wyatt will wear a mask and face shield. Only one customer will be allowed inside and will be required to wear a mask.

“They all understand. They’re just grateful I’m not retiring. I think they could find somebody better but that’s okay,” laughed Wyatt.

Despite some concern – business owners are ready to move to Phase 2 to help reopen the economy. They said it’s up to everyone to make smart decisions in keeping their community afloat and safe.

“I don’t want to see this town fail. I don’t,” said Martin Smith.

During Phase 2, Kitsap County residents are strongly urged to continue wearing masks, maintain social distance, disinfect frequently used objects and surfaces and wash hands frequently.