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There’s no two ways about it, the sweeping guidelines meant to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) are going to create an unprecedented stain on Americans as they hunker down over the next weeks.

The restaurant industry is especially taxed with the government’s coronavirus task force calling for all restaurants and bars to shut down and provide carry-out and delivery service only, completely altering an industry where many employees rely heavily on customer tips as part of their income.

But Ellensburg restaurant owners and managers are rising to the occasion with ideas ranging anywhere from continuing business via take-out and delivery and drive through service. Some have come up with some rather unique ideas like curbside service and good old-fashioned car-hop service where customers can enjoy a good meal from the privacy of their cars.

Despite trying times and the unprecedented need to brainstorm on ways to keep the business a float, locals are finding a little humor to help with the process.

“If we could figure out a way to serve take-out Bloody Mary’s out the back door we’d do it,” The Palace Café owner P.J. Bugni said with a laugh. “There’s not really much choice. We’ll continue to keep the kitchen staff busy with take-out orders.”

Where it is no laughing matter, local restaurants will close their dining rooms, as per coronavirus task force regulation, but they say full menus are available and people can drop by for take-out to keep the family fed during trying times.


Owner Jim Rowe owns and operates five different businesses in town. The Ellensburg Brewing and Blue Rock Saloon will be closed indefinitely. He will serve off the normal menu at Wing Central Roadhouse Grill from noon to 8 p.m. every day. He will also continue with the normal menu at Brooklyn’s Pizzeria with take out and delivery. He said he might even consider extended the pizzeria hours at some point.

“Our main goal is to keep people safe,” Rowe said. “Delivering food is not that much fun. But what I’m hearing is that (the shutdown is just for) two weeks we’re going to hold off and just have the pizzeria deliver because they’re the pros at it. I’ve been working on this idea for the last month. We have over 150 employees and I’m doing everything I can to make sure their impact is as minimal as possible.”

One of things Rowe has in mind is to take a page from the In-N-Out Burger business plan. They will have special drive-up menu of burgers, fish and chips, chicken tenders and other items that can be in quick order like other fast food outlets. They also have developed a family meal menu with main course, salad and desert.

“I’m excited with what we’re doing at the Road House. We’re going to start taking your order at your car, so you don’t even have to get out” he said. “On nice sunny days, we’re setting up a car wash, so anybody that wants to get food can get their car washed. All of the money from the car wash will go to an employee fund. It’s not even really a bonus, it’s a way to keep people from going broke because the wait staff will be losing all their tips during all of this.

“We’re copying the In-N-Out Burger chain. You can order from your car and we’ll deliver. So we’re going to do something new and cool for Ellensburg. I do a lot of restaurant consulting, so I’ve been on the phone a lot today with all my clients. I told them if this In-N-Out thing takes off, I might not open the dining room again. We’ll run the largest drive-through restaurant in the state.”


“Our goal is to keep the kitchen going through take-out, but all our all our food staff and bar tenders are filing for unemployment,” Bugni said. “We’re trying to do the best we can. For those who want to work we’re going to have cleaning crews and keep people busy. We’ll test the waters with this to-go thing.

“We’ll be talking over the phone. People can call the regular line, which is funneled to a three-phone call center. We’re also adding another line people can call. We’re going to try and do curbside, too, for people that don’t want to come in. They can call and let us know when they’re here and we can deliver it to them out on Fourth (Avenue).”


Owner Joann Harris said the restaurant will be open for take-out and delivery from the full lunch and dinner menus.

“I’m really excited in that our employees want to be working. We’re just really hopeful that we can be taking care of our community and take care of our employees at the same time,” she said. “Our full lunch and dinner menu is available.

“We will have our employees doing deliveries as a way to keep them working. We also encourage people to use Ano Delivery, who will also be doing deliveries for us.”


Hotel Windrow managing partner Steve Townsend said the downtown hotel will shut down its restaurant completely and room service will not be available. But the ownership is working with Ellensburg Pasta Company on delivery orders for hotel guests.

“The hotel remains open, but we’re going to shut down the restaurant completely,” Townsend said. “We’re going to work with Ellensburg Pasta Company to provide service to our guests.

“From my standpoint, I support the governor’s decision. It makes sense when you consider that we’ve closed all the schools and other public facilities. It doesn’t make sense to have people come together at a bar or restaurant. It’s best that we shut everything down for a period of time and get past this, then reopen and go forward.”


One of historic downtown Ellensburg’s eateries will be offering a carry-out service from its complete menu for the duration owner Mitch Cook said.

“It’s a bummer and we’ll make some adjustments to keep taking care of business,” Cook said. “We’ll have takeout and offer delivery services. It certainly takes a chunk out of what we do here.”

The Dakota Café has contracted with Ano Delivery and will make the full lunch and dinner menu available. Customers can call into the facility for takeout orders as well.

“We’ve had flu virus outbreaks before, but nothing like this where it shuts down business or countries. So we’ll just have to hunker down and get through this.”


Chef and owner Oscar Guitron said the Yellow Church Café, which was built in 1923 as a church for the German Lutherans, will start with a takeout menu and possibly expand to delivery service down the road.

“We’ll for sure offer takeout from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for lunch and from 4 to 7 p.m. for dinner,” he said. “It will be pre-order takeout. We might deliver upon request. We do have people interested in delivering for us, we just haven’t developed our business for that right now.

“I think the shutdown is the right thing to do. In my opinion, if we keep trying to make a buck and don’t care about people than this won’t go away. In restaurants, there’s a lot of moving parts with people coming and going, so the shutdown will help get it under control.”


Mark Holloway and and his wife Donna Malek own both the pizzeria and coffee shops. Even though it is a hardship on business owners, they understand the need to take precautions.

“We have to do what we have to do. We’re lucky in that both business offer to-go type food and drive- through windows,” Holloway said. “Starting (Tuesday), people will be able to use our drive-throughs or walk into the lobby and get a to-go item. We already have delivery service for Cornerstone Pie. We encourage people to use our drive-through window at the pizzeria and coffee shops.

“People will be able to place orders online, then come to the lobby or drive-through to pick them up. Our entire menu will be available. We’ll operate like this until further notice.”


Like other eateries in town, owner Caesar Flores said his establishment will operate on a to-go basis off a full menu. It’s not ideal, he said, but unlike the bars, he can get through the crisis and take care of business.

“Everything we do is for carry-out. So people can call in and we will have it ready for them to come down and pick it up. We don’t do delivery ourselves, but there are a couple of services in town that do deliver. But unless people pay for delivery, we’ll be strictly take-out,” he said.

“There’s always a reason for something this severe. It’s going to effect business, but it is what it is. We certainly want to keep everybody healthy, including our employees. At Teriyaki Wok, about 40 percent of our business is take-out, so we’ll get through this.”


Owner Devin Marshall said he will continue business as usual through an online program set up to order and pay online then pick up the order at the pickup area in the shop. Orders can be placed at Café

“There’s no need for contact with anybody,” he said. “We’re setting up a shelf where the orders are placed. The home page has video and pictures of the food. There’s a button on top that says online order. You can make your order, then pay with a credit card. You can also make a payments in the store.

“When you get there, your order will have your name on the bag. You can walk in, grab your bag and walk out.”

Marshall said will be a few layoffs with staff, but the job will be ready and waiting when things get sorted with the virus outbreak. When the shop goes back to regular operation, it will be business as usual.

“We’ve been this location on Fourth Street for about a year now,” he said. “So we don’t have a lot of room so we’re not in the position to sit back and see what happens. This way allows us to keep moving forward. I’m hearing (the shutdown will last) two weeks before it’s cleared up, but I’m skeptical. So we have this plan in place, communicating with our team, and how many of the staff is on, so we get through this.”

Rodney Harwood: award-winning journalist and columnist. Lover of golf and the written word. I can be reached at


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