Restaurants, bars, breweries can now seat indoors under new open-air guidelines

click to enlarge Lumberbeard is offering "warehouse" seating starting this weekend. - LUMBERBEARD BREWING
Lumberbeard Brewing
Lumberbeard is offering "warehouse" seating starting this weekend.
On Monday, word slowly began trickling out of Olympia that restaurants and bars, which have been closed for indoor dining since mid-November, can now adopt new COVID-19 safety guidelines defining "open-air" dining.

As early as Tuesday, several establishments across the Spokane area announced they'd begin seating customers inside at 25 percent capacity while keeping open all bay-style doors, usually reserved for warm weather, to increase outside airflow.

The new open-air rules came just days before many restaurants across the region saw recent investments in temporary outdoor structures, mostly thin-walled event tents, badly damaged in the historic Jan. 13 windstorm.

Under the new guidelines from the governor's office, open air seating is defined as "a structure with one or more permeable exterior walls, allowing outside air to easily exchange within occupied seating areas and maintain carbon dioxide levels below 450ppm."


Permeable exterior walls are defined as open bay doors, multiple open windows, screened openings, open tent panels, ventilation holes in side panels and uncovered lattice.

Not included are single windows and doors.

Venues that choose to follow these new guidelines must, depending on how seating is configured, also continuously monitor indoor carbon dioxide levels to ensure adequate air exchange from outside. The Washington Hospitality Association breaks down possible seating configurations and other specific requirements for open-air dining on its website.

click to enlarge You can sit inside now, but the big doors have to stay open. - ROCK CITY GRILL
Rock City Grill
You can sit inside now, but the big doors have to stay open.
All other restrictions for Phase 1, which all of Washington state remains at since Gov. Jay Inslee last week announced new guidelines for the state's COVID-19 reopening plan, still apply. Those rules include a 25 percent capacity limit on all seating, tables capped at six people from no more than two separate households, no alcohol service after 11 pm and tables spaced six feet or more apart.

Other specific rules that apply to all phases of reopening for dining establishments require customers to wear face coverings any time they're not seated, and seated but not eating or drinking. Live entertainment and games are also prohibited, among other activities.


So far, we've seen social media posts from several restaurants, bars and breweries with roll-up doors sharing that they've already shifted tables around to meet the new guidelines. These social media posts also encourage customers to bundle up when they visit to help keep off the chill.

Among those that have made such announcements are Lost Boys Garage (their outdoor tent was badly damaged in the storm), Manito Tap House, Lumberbeard Brewing, Whistle Punk Brewing, Wine & Taps and Rock City Grill.

Updated Jan. 18 at 11 am.

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About The Author

Chey Scott

Chey Scott is the Inlander's food and listings editor. She compiles the weekly events calendar for the print and online editions of the Inlander, manages and edits the food section, and also writes about local arts and culture. Chey (pronounced Shay) is a lifelong Spokanite and a graduate of Washington State University...