A week ago, the Inlander was planning to publish a feature introducing readers to one of the newest restaurants to open in the region: Watts 1903 Spirits & Eatery, on the west end of downtown Spokane at 1318 W. First Ave.
That original piece is now on hold in light of current events; instead, we have a different story to share about the restaurant.
Just as Watts was reading for a grand opening celebration in the coming weeks, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all Washington state restaurants and bars to cease dine-in service for at least two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Watts is co-owned by Brandyn Blanchat, who also owns the Saranac Public House on the east end of downtown. Named after the historic Watts Automotive building it's located in, the restaurant serves an eclectic menu of pub fare, like bacon and potato beer cheese soup, Jamaican jerk tacos and vegetarian meatloaf. Watts soft-opened in early February, and was just settling into the swing of business when Gov. Inslee's order hit.
Just days after we chatted with Blanchat about his new eatery, most of Watts' staff was laid off. Today, however, another local business stepped in to support Watts as the entire hospitality industry braces for uncertainty.
Starting this week and continuing each week until the dine-in ban is lifted, Occam Solutions, a technology services firm located near the restaurant, is purchasing a $500 gift certificate from Watts 1903, says restaurant general manager Kelsey Strom.
"I received a call this morning, and the owner just said 'we would like to adopt you,'" Strom says. "I was a little confused at first, but he explained that he wanted to start an 'adopt-a-restaurant' movement, and they are going to provide us a guarantee of a $500 gift certificate every week that their employees can use to order food to-go."
Watts' full menu (and that of its sister eatery the Saranac) is available for take-out and delivery orders via the locally owned Treehouse Deliveries. To pick up yourself, simply call the restaurant at 279-2334; orders are accepted daily from 11 am-8 pm at both Watts and the Saranac.
Strom says that so far, take-out business has been better than she thought it would be, although almost all orders are coming in just around lunch and dinner. Currently, she and a cook are the only two working at the restaurant. At least 20 employees, mostly part-time, were let go after the dine-in ban was announced Sunday night. When the restaurant is able to reopen for normal service, Strom says everyone let go has the option to return to their positions.
"What worries me right now, and hopefully this doesn't happen, is that the to-gos get cut off as well, and the restaurants have to shut down completely," she says. "Especially for a new place like us, that is something that will hurt us a lot. So I'm worried about that, and I'm worried about all of my employees and friends in the industry and them being able to get through this."
To find out how to order from other locally owned restaurants in the region during this difficult time, the Inlander continues to update a database, which you can access here. Restaurants not yet on the list, or who need to make updates to their information, can do so via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.