The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Restaurants work to serve meals outdoors

 

January 14, 2021

Andrew Weiler

Confusion over permitting led to a stop work order for construction of an outdoor dining facility at The Spar in Cathlamet.

Local restaurant owners are eager to reopen and are developing outdoor solutions, but the question remains whether outdoor dining will happen in Wahkiakum County.

Abiding by state and local guidelines proves difficult both financially and logistically. Under regional reopening the county is at the mercy of its neighbors Cowlitz, Clark, Skamania, and Klickitat. The uncertain future of the county unsurprisingly forces restaurant owners to make difficult business decisions to ensure their survival: from staffing, to hours of operation, to physical infrastructure.

In the past month, The Spar owner Stephanie Vossen has applied for a right-of-way application to allow dining in two adjoined parking spots in front of her building. After working with several agencies including the liquor board, Washington Department of Transportation, and the health department Vossen was ready to construct a temporary dining area.

During a special town council meeting on December 29, the council failed to grant the application and instead voted to help Vossen meet the requirements. However, that motion wasn't clearly understood by several meeting attendees including Vossen.

"At the meeting it was like, 'okay, this is the vote, she's approved. Move forward,'" recalled Vossen. "So my thought is that I'm good because I'd already talked with all the entities prior to that meeting."

Last week, when Vossen began building her temporary structure in the parking spaces she was met by Council Member Bill Wainwright who shut the construction down just before her roof was complete. Wainwright informed Vossen that her right-of-way permit was in fact not granted. A wooden frame and unused 2x4s can still be seen on the sidewalk from the nearly completed job.

According to Vossen, she has been approved by the liquor board and WSDOT to move ahead with her outdoor dining plans. The town hopes to hold a special meeting this week to further discuss Vossen's right-of-way permit application otherwise it will be an agenda item during the January 19 regular meeting.

"It's really frustrating when all I'm trying to do is make my business work because relying on to-gos isn't," Vossen said.

The Spar is still open Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for to-go orders.

Maria's Restaurant was hoping to have an outdoor dining tent at the marina this week, but a recent wind storm has damaged their structure. Their food shack is still open as they planned at the marina Tuesday - Saturday from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. serving tacos, tortas, quesadillas, and more. Outdoor seating suited for about 20 people within social distancing guidelines will happen when a new tent is secured in the coming weeks.

Maria's also wants folks to be ready for their $25 grilled chicken combo with rice, beans, tortillas, and pico de gallo which includes a whole chicken fit for 3 to 4 people.

Backroadz constructed a covered area over their deck last month but outdoor seating is not yet available. Their management feels juggling the normal business with enforcing strict social distancing guidelines is too challenging at this point. Backroadz has been fortunate that their core operation has always been to-go orders which has made adapting to state guidelines more feasible.

In Skamokawa, The Duck Inn has begun constructing a covered area over their deck which has also been expanded. They're planning to have six tables, space heaters, and TVs. Meanwhile, they are also building two gazebo-like structures with sliding glass doors and windows, also equipped with heaters and TVs.

According to owner Logan Britt, The Duck Inn will be closed even for to-go orders until the county has reached Phase 2 of reopening.

"We're excited because regardless of covid; the new structure will be beneficial. Customers will be able to enjoy our patio all year long," Britt said.

 

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