Windmill owners says he’ll open next week despite COVID-19 closure

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The Windmill Restaurant, 1501 N. Wenatchee Ave.

WENATCHEE — The owner of a venerable Wenatchee restaurant says he’ll reopen for dinner May 27, despite the state’s restrictions dealing with COVID-19.

Kevin Smith, owner of the Windmill for the last eight years, told NCWLIFE he’ll be serving next Wednesday despite state orders closing restaurants as non-essential businesses. His reopening comes just four days before those health orders are set to expire, and he said he hopes other local restaurants will follow his lead.

“This isn’t about me or the Windmill,” Smith says. “This is about every small business out there.”

Smith says he’ll have just eight tables at a time, spread out for social distancing, with no indoor seating to wait for a table. Normally the Windmill can seat 72 diners at a time, he said.

Since Gov. Jay Inslee issued the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” executive order March 23, Smith said his bills — insurance and taxes among them — have continued to pile up despite no income.

The Windmill, 1501 N. Wenatchee Ave., has operated since 1931. Smith employees about a dozen staff there, he said. The business is designed as a sit-down restaurant and does little takeout business — perhaps 40 such orders a year, he said.

After Smith made his announcement via Facebook just after midnight Tuesday, he filled his available reservations for May 27 and for several nights beyond that.

“If we can do 16 tables a night, that would be great. It’s a break-even.”

The Chelan-Douglas Health District did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday on the Windmill’s reopening plan. Smith said Tuesday he had spoken of his decision to the health district officer who regularly inspects his business, but had not given any formal notice to the district that he would reopen.

Smith said there’s a disparity between the way restaurants have been managed compared to big box businesses during the coronavirus pandemic — which has sickened more than 18,000 people in Washington and killed 1,031, including 317 known diagnoses and nine deaths in Chelan and Douglas counties.

“The people that are complaining about me opening my business, they have no problem walking into Fred Meyer with 400 other people,” Smith said. “… You don’t have to come in if you don’t want to, but don’t badmouth or put somebody down that’s trying to put money in their employees’ pockets and pay their bills.”