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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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While experts advise staying home for Super Bowl LV, some Spokane bars and restaurants will be open

The best spot to watch the historic showdown between Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes on Sunday is the by-now well-worn grooves of the couch in your den, health experts say.

With five new cases of an overseas, more contagious variant of the novel coronavirus reported in Washington state, watching the big game with a small crowd of those in your immediate household is the best approach , health officials advise.

“We do not want to see another surge two weeks from Super Bowl Sunday,” State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah told reporters Thursday.

That advice, backed up by months of data that show spikes in infections immediately following major holidays and events since the pandemic began, continues to affect a hospitality industry that has been hammered by the pandemic. Businesses in the industry in Washington state alone lost $10 billion in revenue between 2019 and 2020, according to figures compiled by the Washington Hospitality Association. The workforce has been reduced 16% since the pandemic began, the trade group reports.

Local pubs and restaurants have opened at 25% capacity under open-air rules adopted by Gov. Jay Inslee in mid-January. That has allowed sports bar mainstays such as the Swinging Doors, which has been welcoming Super Bowl business for four decades on Francis Avenue, to reopen for in-person dining.

The Swinging Doors is taking table reservations for Sunday, an annual practice prompted when enterprising patrons would rush to claim chairs with coats when the bar opened for business and nurse their drinks until kickoff.

“It’s not something we’re really promoting,” said Lisa Emery, general manager of the eatery, referring to its Super Bowl operations. “At least we can have our televisions on.”

That’s a reference to the rules in Los Angeles County that took effect late last week. While restaurants in the county, which has seen a recent reduction of the outbreak but still stands at a higher incidence rate than Spokane County, can open to 50% capacity for outdoor dining, TVs must remain off while people are eating. Health officials in the county said they were concerned about people yelling and screaming, spreading aerosols into the air that can carry the virus.

But Emery noted that people will gather and yell anyway, whether it’s at a restaurant or in their own homes. While restaurants have to follow strict rules in order to stay open, government officials can only urge people not to gather privately in large groups and act in potentially dangerous ways.

“I think the missed opportunity is that this is going to force people to gather in homes,” she said. “They won’t be wearing masks, sanitizing tables. They won’t have Plexiglas barriers between the tables, like we do.”

Inslee cautioned against such get-togethers at a news conference Thursday afternoon, saying gathering at home to watch the game was “really too dangerous this year.”

“We don’t want to let the virus win the Super Bowl,” Inslee said. “We want to win the Super Bowl.”

The ability to open at all is a luxury for many local eateries and bars, including those slinging Super Bowl staples. Forget about the specials.

“I’ve been telling people it’s just special to be able to be open,” said Matthew Howes, general manager of the Flamin’ Joes chicken wing establishment on Division Street.

Dine-in will be available at both locations of the locally owned chain on a first-come, first-served basis when the doors open at 11 a.m., Howe said. Takeout and delivery are available through all major apps.

Both locations of Poole’s Public House are asking those interested in visiting to plan ahead.

“We’re encouraging reservations if you want to make them,” said Tyler Poole, general manager at the South Hill spot on Regal Street.

Poole’s has indoor and outdoor dining options in a tent.

The South Hill location will have 16 TVs inside, and one located in the outside tent for people to watch the festivities beginning with Sunday breakfast at 9 a.m., Poole said.

Drink specials will include $4 Bloody Marys and mimosas, he said.

Those eating outdoors or in restaurants with open windows will want to dress warmly. High temperatures are expecting to only reach the upper 30s on Sunday, although there’s little chance for rain or snow, according to forecasters.

The Swinging Doors can offset some of the chill with heaters, but doing so causes the carbon dioxide in the eating area to rise and potentially exceed allowable limits, Emery said.

If Super Bowl LV lives up to the expectations of football experts, it may be a contest for the ages. Brady, in his six victories in the big game, has never won a Super Bowl by more than 10 points. Mahomes is looking to become the third NFL player to win back-to-back Super Bowl MVP honors.

A November matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs was decided by just three points and came down to the last drive.

But for the eateries that depend on hungry and thirsty fans, the Super Bowl is likely to continue to be a pandemic-induced subdued affair.

“Two hundred is our capacity. We always have full capacity for the Super Bowl,” Emery said. “This year, we’ll just have 50.”

Staff writers Arielle Dreher and Laurel Demkovich contributed to this report.

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