FILE — Space Needle street view

In this March 6, 2020 photo, the Space Needle is seen through the round opening of a sculpture at the Seattle Center in Seattle. King County has become the epicenter of the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the U.S., and local businesses are bracing for the cascading impacts of losing customers for an indeterminate amount of time. 

(The Center Square) — Over a quarter of Washington's businesses have been subjected to government-mandated closures since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year, according to federal data.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Washington has seen 27% of its businesses close their doors at least temporarily as an untold number could close for good. Just 53% of businesses statewide received a loan or grant to make payroll, the agency reports.

Only Puerto Rico (50%), Michigan (32%), Pennsylvania (30%), ranked higher than Washington for the percentage of businesses closed.

Nationally, government shutdowns closed 19% of businesses for some period of time nationwide from July 20 to September 30. 

It's been nine months since Gov. Jay Inslee issued a stay at home order in March shutting down millions of non-essential workplaces statewide.

Few industries have been hit as hard as the food service and restaurant industry which still leads the list of COVID-19 workplace outbreaks in Washington.

The burgeoning industry employed around 265,000 workers as of November, according to BLS data—down from 337,000 workers in March.

In November, Inslee issued another partial statewide shutdown closing gyms and theaters while leaving restaurants to resort to outdoor dining and take-out only.

His extension of that shutdown into next year came with another $70 million in small business grants many employers are still waiting on.

Leavenworth's Wildflour is just one family-owned restaurant that could stand to lose everything if the state sees more severe restrictions.

The pasta shop nestled in Washington's world-famous ski resort town is a lifeline for people like Nicole who say support from the state can hardly be counted on.

A server of two years at Wildflour, Nicole works 30 hours a week and spends part of that time bleaching the restaurant from top to bottom in between getting food to the few customers who eat in their outdoor plastic wrap tents.

"We have great clientele," Nicole said. "I guess I like working with people."

She knows from experience that getting through to someone at the Washington Employment Security Department may be a lost cause.

Nicole was among the more than 100,000 Washington workers to see hours cut last spring and says her extended jobless benefits were denied around August.

Getting through to the department can take weeks just for a vague, five-minute response, she said.

For Nicole, the hospitality industry seems to be disappearing from the headlines.

“I feel like it’s gone by the wayside,” Nicole said. "But it is what it is.”

The Washington Hospitality Association estimates more than 2,000 restaurants have closed in the state since March because of state health restrictions, 31% of which were in Seattle. 

In November, more than 229,000 Washingtonians were out of work or about 6% of the state's workforce, according to BLS data.

Meanwhile, the state's residential and commercial eviction moratorium has yet to be extended in light of the federal eviction moratorium being extended through January 31. Washington's expires December 31.

Washington's partial shutdown restrictions are due to expire on January 4, 2021.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.