If you need to see a sign of the times, take a trip to 'The Black Diamond' in Spokane Valley.
"We are all adults, right? Do we really need Jay Inslee to tell us what is safe? Stand up for your rights," a sign taped on the front door of the bar and grill reads.
After weeks of financial hardships (and potentially facing more), the bar's owners decided to open for business last Friday, May 15.
"I haven't slept very much in the past week or so, gearing up to opening, then actually being open," Brandon Fenton, the bar's co-owner said on Monday. "All through the weekend, I was waiting for somebody to come in and do something. But really, since nobody could tell me what was going to happen, I'm just waiting for somebody to, and expecting an explanation to what legal right they have to pull my license. Any license, whether it be health department, liquor license, business license, whatever it is - there has to be some reasoning, some law, some regulation that I'm violating that they can use to do that," Fenton said.
Fenton still doesn't know what specific law or regulation that would be... so, he's open for business.
The bar is implementing new rules on sanitation and social distancing, including routine cleaning of menus and separating tables six-feet apart. Fenton said the restaurant is in compliance with everything required in 'Phase 2' of Gov. Inslee's plan to reopen Washington.
"We're just asking that they take that responsibility. Everybody's an adult. You do what you do to keep yourself safe. If you don't want to be here, you don't have to come. If you think that it's wrong, you can voice your opinion, and that's completely fine with me. I'm doing my thing and what I believe is right. You can do whatever you think is right," Fenton said.
It appears many in Spokane Valley and the surrounding area believe Fenton is right. After the bar and grill opened on Friday, they had "the best weekend we've ever done for business."
"We've run out of food, we've run out of beers. Just blowing through everything," Fenton said. "The support from the area is just great. It's amazing how many people wanted to come out."
The Black Diamond is not alone. Businesses in Spokane County are starting to open up their doors, defying Governor Inslee's shutdown orders. That includes 'Iron Horse Bar and Grill' in Spokane Valley, who is also opening prematurely and implementing guidelines that fall within the requirements of 'Phase 2.' The business wrote on Facebook:
"Monday May 11, Spokane County's Leading healthcare official, Dr. Bob Lutz of Spokane Regional Health District recommended that Spokane County move to Phase 2. In our 20 plus years or business we have been regulated by two government agencies, Spokane Regional Health District and Washington State Liquor Control Board. The Governor of Washington State has never dictated to us how to run our business. If our leading health officials say it's OK to move forward to Phase 2, we believe we are totally within our rights to do so. Therefore we are open and following Phase 2 protocol."
When asked on Monday, Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz spoke out against any business deciding to open early, against Gov. Inslee's order.
"I have heard of those restaurants. My general take is that they are doing things illegally, and they'll be getting a visit from the Sheriff's Office in the foreseeable future," Lutz said.
The Spokane County Sheriff's Office said it does plan to communicate with businesses defying the governor's order to educate them of the potential consequences, including possibly losing business and/or liquor licenses. The agency does not plan to cite or arrest anyone at this time.
"Educating the public" was also a strategy encouraged by Gov. Inslee in late March, when he spoke about businesses potentially defying shutdown orders.
"Our focus is educating the public, while these orders remain in effect and we don't know how long that is going to be," Gov. Inslee said on March 30. "I've previously said these orders may have to be extended and that certainly remains the case."
Fenton mostly sees eye to eye with the Iron Horse's stance. He pointed to the fact that recent numbers show a downward trend for COVID-19 across Spokane County. He also said without a specific date for reopening, he felt like his business was put in a financial corner.
"The more and more it got pushed out, pushed out, pushed out by the governor. it was like, 'He doesn't have a date. that could go on for months and months and months, and we're just not going to do that anymore," Fenton said.
"(The numbers are) so low for such a big city, big town, big county. Over 500,000 people and the percentage of people that are actually getting sick, and nobody's being hospitalized. We don't have any deaths except here and there," Fenton said. "It just seems kind of ridiculous that we have to stay closed when our numbers are so low."
SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash - The Black Diamond, a bar & grill in Spokane Valley, is open for business.
“Let’s all have some good food, some cold drinks, and not let Jay Inslee take away our freedoms,” reads a sign in the bar.
The owner tells KHQ's Kevin Kim they didn’t want to defy Gov. Inslee’s order, but after weeks of complying with the state's shutdown guidelines, he said he was left in a financial hole that was getting bigger and bigger. He also said his restaurant implemented social distancing guidelines, including routine sanitizing tables, menus, and common areas.
The Spokane County Sheriff's Office said on Monday it would not be ticketing or handing citations to any business that decides to open its doors against Gov. Inslee's shutdown orders. However, the agency said it would be getting in touch with businesses in the area, notifying them they could be in danger of losing business licenses and/or liquor licenses to a state agency.
We will have more on this on KHQ tonight at 5 p.m.