State allows car washes to reopen Thursday

WASHINGTON — Car washes are set to reopen as early as Thursday — as long as they observe the state’s guidance regarding resuming operations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Brown Bear’s Steve Palmer said his company has re-trained more than 300 workers and was ready to reopen every location with a detailed new safety plan.

But on Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office stopped that from happening.

Palmer said Brown Bear had already told customers the six week-wait for a wash would soon be over after submitting a reopening plan to the state more than a week ago.

“And then suddenly, we’re specifically contacted by the governor’s office, by email (Tuesday) and by phone call directly (Wednesday) saying, ‘you cannot open,’” Palmer said.

Brown Bear offers automated pay stations, so customers do not have to roll down their windows or interact with another person, said Palmer, adding: “What am I missing? How is this not drive-through without contact? We’ve asked ourselves that question countless times.”

The governor’s office had said in an email: "They are not supposed to open to the public until the state has issued guidance on health and safety practices for each industry.”

That guidance was issued Thursday, allowing car washes to resume only if specific requirements were met.

“No car washes may operate until they can meet and maintain all requirements, including providing materials, schedules and equipment required to comply,” the guidance states.

Read a memo from the state on the reopening of the car wash industry and the COVID-19 requirements here.

After Brown Bear received the guidance, the company said it would reopen starting at 8 a.m. Friday, adding that it had implemented enhanced sanitation procedures.

“In the end, our customers are the real winners. Many have postponed car washing during the six-week shutdown, and a sparkling vehicle is a bright spot for many during these challenging times,” said Lance Odermat, vice president, general counsel of Car Wash Enterprises, the parent company of Brown Bear.