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Hilton & Company owner Mary Kirkland, left, and employee Lorene Wren place some new pillows on the display couch at the Marysville business on July 1.

 

Washington state dropped a majority of its pandemic restrictions on June 30 as part of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan.

Businesses can now return to full capacity and no longer have required restrictions, although restrictions remain for any indoor event with more than 10,000 people.

Masks are no longer required for vaccinated individuals, although businesses are still allowed to require masks if they choose to.

Some indoor spaces, such as schools and childcare centers, will still have mask requirements however.

“The reopening is something that will help our businesses, especially those that were struggling,” said Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring.

Local business owners said it was good to see more people out.

“We’re excited to see people out and about. We see them smiling and having a good time, living life again after 15 months of a roller coaster ride to say the least,” said R.J. Whitlow, who owns the downtown Marysville taproom and restaurant 5 Rights Brewing with his wife Kristi Whitlow. “It’s definitely a lot better for small businesses if we can actually be open."

Business owners were glad that the state had reached a point where it could reopen.

“Happy that it’s happening and it’s good that the state has been successful in getting a large portion of us vaccinated,” said Mary Kirkland, owner of local gift shop Hilton & Company.

Kirkland said more residents have come out in the first couple days of the reopening.

“So far we’ve had really great response. I think customers are venturing out and I think they’re happy,” she said.

“It’s a very appropriate for this weekend for freedom,” she said.

For many businesses, it has been a difficult time during the closures.

“There were some times when we weren’t sure how we were going to make our lease,” said Whitlow.

The business was ‘to-go only’ for multiple months during the pandemic and had to reduce its work force.

“We have a lot of part-time employees,” said Whitlow. “Thankfully a lot of their families are set up to do this in addition to their primary income."

Now the business actually has more employees than it did before the pandemic.

Retail business slowed down with the pandemic.

“We’ve been blessed with very loyal customers and we’re so thankful they stood by us and came in,” said Kirkland. “It was fewer than normal still, so we’re looking forward to an increase in those people visiting."

The economic recovery will likely not be quick.

“It’s impossible to say how long it will last,” said Nehring.“I think we still have a ways to go.”

With issues of inflation and a labor pool shortage, there are many factors that are putting pressure on business owners.

“I think there are a lot of unknowns right now for businesses,” said Nehring.

Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert said she hopes that residents continue patronizing local restaurants and shops.

“Now that businesses can fully reopen, let’s help them reach their full potential by continuing to support our restaurants and local businesses as they work to bring back employees and resume business without restrictions,” she said.

Whitlow said he wanted to thank the city for their help through the pandemic.

“The community leadership has been huge. Mayor Nehring, the city council, all the people from public works,” he said. “Everyone has worked really hard to make sure small businesses and family-owned businesses are thriving. I think I would be remiss if I didn’t say how great the city has been through this."

Gov. Inslee also encouraged everyone to get vaccinated if they are not, as it is the most effective means to prevent another wave of COVID-19 cases.

“Even though Wednesday marks a new stage in our continued efforts to defeat this pandemic, we still have work to do. Continued success depends on everyone getting vaccinated and encouraging any loved one who has not yet received this lifesaving vaccine to do so, and quickly,” he said.

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