Protests make a mark on Olympia restaurant business

VIDEO: Protests impacting Olympia businesses

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Between COVID-19 and numerous protests, it’s been a challenging year for Thurston County business owners.

At Equal Latin in downtown Olympia, business is starting to pick back up, and workers at the family-run restaurant are pleased.

"We had plans for completely different things, but sometimes life throws wrenches at you and you just kind of got to roll with the punches and work with it,” said Cynthia Wagoner, bar manager.

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Thurston County has been in Phase 2 of Safe Start Washington, the state's reopening plan, for nearly three weeks. Shortly after Equal Latin re-opened with limited indoor seating, Black Lives Matter protests began outside their front door.

"People didn't know what to expect or what they would see," Wagoner said. "We did see a lot of businesses nearby board up and close up.”

Equal Latin stayed open.

The restaurant is across the street from city hall, which is typically the epicenter of nightly demonstrations that draw hundreds of people. At first, protests hurt business for many downtown restaurants.

"We did have to shut down a couple nights early just because, you know, we've had people even call in and cancel parties because they were nervous to be in downtown Olympia at this time,” said Teleia Torres, manager of Silverio's Mexican Kitchen.

However, things quickly improved. The protesters got hungry, too.

“I did have a couple protesters stop in with their signs and get food,” Torres said.

"Earlier, we would have our regular crowd and then later at night we would have the protesters come in and they would dine in and have some drinks,” Wagoner said. “We’re going to continue to do what we need to do to stay operational through thick and thin, I guess.”