Wildfire smoke impacts businesses relying on outdoor seating

While it may be easy for some people to stay indoors and avoid the smoky air, it can be harder for many others who earn a living outside.

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency issued a notice Wednesday warning the air quality in many regions was unhealthy for sensitive groups of people.

But many people working in the restaurant industry depend on outdoor seating as pandemic restrictions drastically cut the number of customers they can serve indoors.

“It seems 2020 packs on things for us,” said Shalini Kumar from Optimism Brewing Company. “The air quality is in addition to the challenges we face right now.”

Their facility used to seat 400 people but phased reopening guidelines slashed that number. An outdoor beer garden had been a lifeline.

“This is 100% vital to our business at the moment,” said Jeremy Sosman.

On weekends a city permit allows the brewery to expand the garden onto the street but the term ‘business as usual’ no longer applies.

“It’s been weird,” said Sosman.

Wildfire smoke now chokes the company’s revenue as managers say foot traffic is down dramatically. Plus, reservations for outdoor seating at several other restaurants in the city have been canceled.

Poor air quality not only shrouds our region in a haze, but also many businesses’ bottom line and outdoor seating will only help for a few more weeks until cooler temperatures and rains move in. The smoke-filled skies has already hit businesses like Optimism hard.  

“It looked we had a 56% decrease from last Tuesday which is substantial,” said Kumar. “Any money we can get right now can help us survive.”

The air is so bad in portions of Western Washington a stage-2 burn ban has been enacted.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency says air quality could remain in moderate or unhealthy categories for sensitive groups through the rest of the week until winds pushing in from the ocean over the weekend.