Business, Interrupted

Many small-business owners expected insurance to help them during the pandemic. They got a rude awakening.

Tucked into the Seattle suburb of Duvall is Flavour Bistro, a seafood-heavy fine-dining experience with dishes like butter-poached lobster tail, smoked scallops Mornay, and a cut of plant-based meat fashioned into an “Impossible Wellington.” Chef Sean Langan’s restaurant was successful enough that last year, he was able to open a second one next door, an Italian-themed place called, fittingly, Italia.

In March, however, Langan’s run of good fortune slammed directly into the pandemic and Washington state’s stay-at-home order. “We tried to operate to go, but fine dining is an in-person experience,” Langan explains in an interview. The takeout experiment fizzled, and he spent months without much revenue, digging into $100,000 in personal funds to keep bills paid. Even when Washington allowed seating at 50 percent capacity, his restaurants were configured in such a way that maintaining social distancing meant allowing far fewer patrons. Italia is now closed permanently; Langan’s 28 employees have been winnowed down to four.

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