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The structure for an outdoor dining canopy can be seen outside Tony's Tavern (February 5, 2021). Photo: My Ferndale News

Restaurant asks permission to close road for outdoor seating

FERNDALE, Wash. — According to 2nd-generation Tony’s Tavern Owner Tonia McDonald, community support has been wonderful over the past year while the business has been struggling to stay afloat amidst government-imposed restrictions on businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But it has not been enough to recover from the financial hemorrhaging the business has been suffering she said.

Some relief is expected after the Whatcom County Council agreed unanimously during its regular January 26th meeting to consider the closure of a section of 4th Avenue. The closure would be north of Main Street next to the business and would enable putting up a canopy and tables to be used for outside dining. Outside dining has been permitted among the pandemic-related business restrictions and has been taken advantage of by many with adequate space.

While the Council vote was unanimous in favor of considering the ordinance permitting the road closure, only Councilmember Ben Elenbaas considered it an emergency to be immediately implemented. As a result, a public hearing on the ordinance was scheduled for the February 9th County Council meeting and a vote to approve the ordinance will follow immediately after.

McDonald is not wasting any time and has begun the process of building the outdoor dining area so everything will be ready next week. She teared up a little when she said an all-volunteer crew showed up today to begin assembling the structural pieces for the canopy.

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The structure for an outdoor dining canopy can be seen outside Tony's Tavern (February 5, 2021). Photo: My Ferndale News
The structure for an outdoor dining canopy can be seen outside Tony’s Tavern (February 5, 2021). Photo: My Ferndale News

The business recently was able to begin providing inside seating by opening all the doors and windows (coats and warm clothes are advised) but only at 25% of capacity. To-go orders are also being offered.

Assuming the ordinance is approved at the February 9th Council meeting, it will remain in effect until a week after government restrictions are lifted enabling the business to operate at 100% of capacity.

McDonald and her daughter, Nicole McDonald, say they have struggled to continue to provide for their customers, an extended family since many have grown up with them and have made the business a second home.

Being able to expand their capacity with the tables under the outside canopy is not going to save the business by itself, Tonia said. “But it will help us to serve more of our wonderful customers who we otherwise would not be able to.”

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Tony’s Tavern, located at 2920 Main Street in Custer, has been a family-owned business since McDonald’s mother and father, Tony and Marydean Winski, opened in 1949.

Tonia, took over in 1994 and plans are for Nicole to eventually become a 3rd-generation owner.

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