FOLLOWUP: Duke’s Alki reopening after COVID-19 shutdown; plus Public Health’s answers to our questions about how business outbreaks are handled

(WSB photo, last week)

Six days after Public Health Seattle-King County closed Duke’s on Alki because COVID-19 was spreading among its staff, the restaurant says it has clearance to reopen today. (The PHSKC website confirms the reopening.) Subscribers to its email list received a message from founder Duke Moscrip, including:

… When the health authorities examined our Alki location and took the action to shut us down, we were devastated. Frankly, we thought we were following the safety protocols precisely. After cooperating with them fully over the past few days, we earned their approval to reopen today. Specifically, they approved the distance between our tables and the occupancy levels that allow us to keep everyone safe.

As a new layer of safety at Duke’s restaurants, we ordered and are installing new air purification technology over the next few weeks at all our locations to stop COVID-19 particles, other viruses, and bacteria in internal spaces.

Safety. That is the only thing important to us as we all begin to venture out more and enjoy our unique way of life here in the Pacific Northwest.

Despite every safety measure available, we expect we will see more cases of COVID-19 among our valued team. Today we are better prepared to properly react.

I know that many of you believe that Duke’s let you down. For that, we are truly saddened.

The message also says an unspecified number of staff members remain quarantined. This statement from the restaurant following last week’s shutdown noted 7 Alki employees had tested positive for the virus.

(ADDED 12:55 PM: PHSKC has since published this statement about the reopening.)

Before the shutdown announcement, after our previous report about two cases at Duke’s, we had asked Public Health some questions about how outbreaks are handled; we’d noticed while covering other businesses that no two seemed to be handling cases the same way. We have since received the replies, published below in Q&A format, with our questions and Public Health’s answers:

WSB: “What if anything are businesses required to report to PHSKC regarding employees testing positive?”

PHSKC: “Notify health department within 24 hours if you suspect COVID-19 is spreading in your workplace, or if you are aware of 2 or more employees who develop confirmed or suspected COVID-19 within a 14-day period.”

WSB: “What are they required to tell customers?”

PHSKC: “No requirements.”

WSB: “Under the new state guidance, what circumstance constitutes “spreading” at a workplace that would need to be reported?”

PHSKC: “We would consider ‘spreading’ when any person in the workplace, whether an employee, contractor or customer, might have been potentially exposed in the workplace. We would recommend that a workplace call us if they have any questions or concerns as it generally takes some investigation to try to determine the most likely location of exposure (e.g., community exposure vs. workplace exposure, etc..).”

WSB: “Once PHSKC gets a report of ‘spreading,’ what will you do with that information? How/is it investigated? Might orders for closure ensue?”

PHSKC: “- We first try to confirm any reported cases through our public health databases and if any non-household contacts have been identified already.

“- We then do an initial investigation call to (i) confirm whether transmission occurred in the workplace, (ii) identify any exposed workplace contacts (coworkers or customers), and (iii) assess steps that employers have taken to reduce the risk of transmission within the workplace and provide technical assistance when necessary.

“- If this investigation identifies conditions indicating a higher risk to employees or the public, we may schedule a site visit to the workplace. A public health order or closure could ensue if the risk level is deemed to be very high and we believe there is an ongoing risk to employees or the public that isn’t being mitigated.”

WSB: “What about employees who feel their employer isn’t taking appropriate action – is there anything they can do?”

PHSKC: “Workplace safety complaints about coronavirus or other issues can be filed with L&I (1-800-423-7233). Employees can also file a written safety/health complaint.”

(Again, we had those questions out to PHSKC *before* the Duke’s closure – the first of its kind in our area – was announced.)

53 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Duke's Alki reopening after COVID-19 shutdown; plus Public Health's answers to our questions about how business outbreaks are handled"

  • Anne July 14, 2020 (12:24 pm)

    Will be interesting to see -with nice weather ahead-just how “ socially distant” tables & customers are-especially in front of Dukes. Commenter  from last week said it was so crowded-they felt they had to cross the street to walk down the sidewalk. Guessing they might be on Public Healths  radar for awhile would think – that if employees in a restaurant test positive for COVID -it would be a requirement to tell customers though. 

  • Russ July 14, 2020 (12:30 pm)

    “I know that many of you believe that Duke’s let you down. For that, we are truly saddened.”

    That last paragraph comes off as kind of an odd response to me.

    How about saying, “For that, we are truly sorry”?

    You may have thought you were following the appropriate guidelines but it was determined by PHSKC that you were not and were consequently shut down. Your customers were the (potential) victims, not Duke’s. An apology, in addition to the sadness, is the appropriate response here in my opinion.

    • AJ July 14, 2020 (1:27 pm)

      Agreed. Their statement doesn’t indicate to me that they take full responsibility for what happened. That last line reminds me of when someone says “I’m sorry if you were offended.”

    • cwit July 14, 2020 (1:27 pm)

      Or how about: ‘We have let many of you down, for that we are truly sorry.’ Instead of their current version, which puts the responsibility on the customer (‘you BELIEVE we let you down’ (and the subcontext is ‘but in actuality, we did not let you down.’).

      As you mentioned, THINKING you are following safety protocols precisely and NOT ACTUALLY doing so would count as letting down their customers.

  • James July 14, 2020 (12:39 pm)

    I’m going to leave this article from the EPA here. Installing an air purifier by itself is not enough to protect people from COVID-19. Duke’s is not taking into consideration the changing air quality with every patron that enters the establishment. The baseline of chance for contamination cannot remain a constant in the restaurant. And unless patrons have been tested themselves, Duke’s runs the risk of contamination. If they want to reopen and sell food to-go only, that is safer for the employees and the patrons. But reopening the restaurant space as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the state is dangerous.

  • Steve July 14, 2020 (12:48 pm)

    My party ate at Dukes on June 27th…reservation through OpenTable.  Why was I never notified of the outbreak?  You had my contact info.

    • Anne July 14, 2020 (1:28 pm)

      Well according to Public Health it’s not a “requirement “ but you’d think a Restaurant would go out of its  way to contact customers on their own. Because some won’t seems like a great reason for it to be a requirement I think. 

  • brizone July 14, 2020 (1:09 pm)

    “We’re so saddened we got caught, that you wouldn’t believe us when we tried to pretend nothing happened, and above all that it will cost us money. “

    • Plf July 14, 2020 (3:41 pm)

      So disappointing on so many levels, always enjoyed eating there over the years, summer, holidays, birthdays.  Our family and many of our friends have decided they will not get our business ever and I mean ever again.plenty of restaurants in our community who have and continue to do the right thing and so deserving of our long Dukes

      • reggie July 14, 2020 (8:29 pm)

        I agree with you.  I have been part of their birthday club since they opened on Alki.  Frankly, have been an overpriced menu… Clearly, the responsibility lies on the GM who contracted the virus and Duke dropped the ball here… Duke’s clearly does not care about their workers nor the community… They are a corporate chain and I will be taking my business to small business that care about their workers and NOT the bottom line.

  • psps July 14, 2020 (2:05 pm)

    Gee, thanks a lot for taking the irresponsible and self-centered path of opening up your infection center … AGAIN! West Seattle is so “lucky” to have you as part of the community!

    • LB July 14, 2020 (9:34 pm)


  • RT July 14, 2020 (2:19 pm)

    The situation is not unique to Dukes. Any setting with multiple people is a significant risk.  The virus can be spread by folks who are asymptomatic and even those who test negative. Temperature checks are unreliable since not all folks carrying the virus have a temperature.  Evidence now supports aerosols as vehicles for transmission, and as long as you are near folks who are talking, laughing  or singing, let alone coughing or sneezing, you are in the path of those particles. Improving  ventilation in all buildings will be key for employees in confined settings as well as visitors. This includes schools, office buildings, condos, shopping malls, government buildings, libraries , theaters , grocery stores, major box stores, and restaurants. In the short term , dining anywhere is a risk. It’s  best to assume that in any group of tables, someone will be sitting there  with active COVID-19, that they don’t even know they have.   Pretty much Russian Roulette now, so the best thing you can do is wear a mask, avoid “mingling”, and enjoy home cooking or take out. 

  • JJ July 14, 2020 (2:19 pm)

    Why aren’t contact tracers hunting down customers to notify them? Certainly sitting for an entire meal, inside, without a mask with an infected server, or 2 or 3 or 7 would constitute significant close contact. Patrons should let the department of health know they expect notification from contact tracing.

    • Yma July 15, 2020 (7:21 am)

      Hi JJthere aren’t nearly enough contact tracers. Also, restaurants are not required to take names/contact numbers of the patrons- so it’s rather difficult to contact trace in that context. Employees, yes- you can go down that path.

  • BKRDT July 14, 2020 (2:27 pm)

    I ate at Duke’s a couple weeks ago knowing about the first case of a worker testing positive. I will eat there again when I have occasion too. Just a customer sharing that I’m not mad at them or their letter wording. 

    • Emma-Lou July 15, 2020 (6:50 pm)

      BKRDT, Way to ignorantly brag about you’re own personal reckless endangerment. You can’t claim ignorance after purposely going to a place knowing an outbreak had occured proudly as opposed to horrified or scared sh*tless, like you should be, and not be part of the problem that’s happening out there!  You’ve chosen to be part of the problem! At this point,  you’re either stubborn, stupid, or even worse a sad, politically motivated person or a Dukes  boss. Pathetic on all fronts. There is NO excuse for the absurb write-ups they’ve put out not taking any accountability what-so-ever!  As for my family and friends who live here in WS, we’re done! News has spread and none of us will ever go there again! However,  I drove by today and there was a little kid in the inside window. I really hope you don’t murder him. Wise up people! 

  • Buttercup July 14, 2020 (2:33 pm)

    What about” our seating has been approved”” , it should have said” we have confirmed our seating to meet state requirements”. They made it sound as if the state bent to their seating style”  To little to late. If you didn’t didn’t follow this important rules how do I know you were before all this happened. Trust broken.

    • WSB July 14, 2020 (4:04 pm)

      If it helps, here’s a statement we received from Duke’s two hours after we published this story. Haven’t yet worked it in.

      Duke’s Chowder House submitted a comprehensive COVID-19 safety plan that includes all aspects of the Governor’s Safe Start Requirements. The plan addresses employee health screening, physical distancing for employees, and compliance with 50% seating capacity. Duke’s Chowder House mapped out their front of the house and back of the house operations to optimize safe workflow, and reduced available indoor and outdoor seating. Furthermore, all employees were tested for COVID-19 per Public Health recommendations.

      Duke’s submitted a safety plan on July 10 and worked with public health for several days to finalize and confirm implementation of the plan so they could open safely. The restaurant has been fully cooperative throughout the investigation and was quickly able to address all of the Public Health concerns.

  • TJ July 14, 2020 (2:48 pm)

    Then don’t go there. Simple. They are allowed to reopen and that’s what they are doing. I would be interested to see how many of the employees were symptomatic. Probably zero. 1 month ago I knew nobody that had tested positive, but since then I know 3 that have. All 3 had no symptoms and were screened for various reasons 

    • psps July 14, 2020 (10:42 pm)

      “Then don’t go there.” Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Just because they are “allowed to reopen” doesn’t compel them to, and they shouldn’t be having any on-premise dining.  Why? Because, while you may be willing to go, you shouldn’t.  You get infected and, regardless of whether you get seriously ill or have no symptoms at all, everyone you’re around after that can get infected from you. Eventually, sooner rather than later, at least some of those people will become seriously sick and some will die. And all because Duke’s wants to be an inconsiderate and irresponsible member of the community, creates an “attractive nuisance,” and attracts other short-sighted and selfish people. We’re on our way back to a Miami-like situation and another lock down thanks to irresponsible places like Duke’s and irresponsible people who patronize their on-premise service.

    • Lagartija Nick July 15, 2020 (9:33 am)

      And here ladies and gentlemen is the true conservative response, blame the victims (employees and to a lesser extent, customers) for Management’s failure to follow protocols. You may as well be asking the employees what they were wearing. And don’t worry folks, ole TJ knows three people who tested positive without any symptoms, so we shouldn’t worry about it, nevermind the 140k plus (and rising fast) dead people. The GOP is turning into a death cult.

      • Emma-Lou July 15, 2020 (6:54 pm)

        Yes! This! ^ Exactly! Shame on anyone thinking that is an appropriate response! 

  • Lispector July 14, 2020 (3:02 pm)

    I know I’m never eating at Duke’s again. Several of their locations had multiple cases of covid-19 so across the board they weren’t being safe, which to me says that they likely aren’t buttoned up on all the normal health standards either. And as others have said, you just have to drive by on Alki to see that they weren’t enforcing social distancing. No thanks.

  • WS REZ July 14, 2020 (3:15 pm)

    welp, last time I go to Duke’s. Plenty other great, responsible, places to eat seafood in West Seattle :-)

  • WSNative July 14, 2020 (4:48 pm)

    I’m curious, as I’ve done take out once so far at another restaurant and was given option to leave information for contact tracing. While likely rarer in the take out setting, I left my information, and had assumed this meant that if someone tested positive, I might receive notification. I’m assuming many patrons at Dukes did the same, just by the thread comments, but did people receive notifications following closure? What’s the threshold for using the contact tracing information? I’d prefer to be told, not find out from blog…any idea if the contact tracing was used for these Dukes patrons?

  • flimflam July 14, 2020 (5:20 pm)

    they are so full of it. i sent a measured yet concerned email to them and received a reply from one of the owners who essentially said their disregard for distancing, etc was “untrue”. it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to measure 6ft between seats. really lame response here, but about what i expected. kind of along the lines of the old backhanded apology “i’m sorry you were offended by what i said” rather than “i’m sorry i offended you”.——————————–don’t give them a cent of your hard earned money…

  • DuckFukes July 14, 2020 (5:48 pm)

    Yeah, no. The table spacing and ventilation was never the issue. The issue was that the FOH and BOH were either not wearing PPE at all or not social distancing when not wearing it. It didn’t just magically spread across 7++ workers. Dukes has made it very clear that they don’t care about their staff or customers. We will not return. I can’t believe that a place with no regard for people’s safety cares about the freshness or quality of their food.

    • flimflam July 14, 2020 (8:06 pm)

      it sounds very clearly that, yes, table spacing was an issue. the lame dukes retort even mentioned this, though they were apparently completely flummoxed as to what the correct procedure is…so hard.

  • aa July 14, 2020 (5:54 pm)

    In my opinion, any indoor dining is a risk.  If you don’t want the risk don’t do it.  There is no scenario where you can be completely safe,.  I believe Dukes was doing what they thought were the right steps. Maybe it was an employee who was finally back at work and kept quiet rather than losing the income, maybe they didn’t have symptoms,  maybe we are all trying to figure out something the best we can.Deciding to never eat there again is overly dramatic in my opinion. Other places have had to shut down and then reopen, it sucks but it may be part of how  it goes for awhile. 

  • Heshee July 14, 2020 (6:21 pm)

    Are the employees all ok? I realize all the other comments here are focused on the customers that CHOSE to dine in a restaurant of all things during a pandemic, but the employees had no choice in the matter. I feel no sympathy for anyone that believes going out to eat is essential. I feel so much sympathy for anyone being forced to work in a restaurant right now (usually without health benefits). To the customers that are flocking to those environments, how dare you be complaining about being exposed? Also, any news about the hazard pay for ESSENTIAL places of businesses such as grocery stores? I’d that still happening? 

    • Anne July 14, 2020 (7:16 pm)

      Very good point! Absolutely agree!

    • UberBeth July 14, 2020 (8:02 pm)

      Grocery worker here, our hazard pay ended after the 4th of July.

      • Heshee July 14, 2020 (11:21 pm)

        Uberbeth,That’s awful:(. I’m so sorry.

    • LadyG July 14, 2020 (8:06 pm)

      I’m with you 100% on this. I feel not the least bit sorry for any of these people who take the risk of going out to eat during this ever growing pandemic. It’s almost selfish to go out to eat at this time and get upset when a place has an outbreak of the illness. I know for a fact that these workers have no choice because it’s for a living and and income. I know over half these workers are scared to death right now to even be at work working. I hope you people who think eating at restaurants and risking not only yourselves but others as well, I hope you TIP extra decent to these workers to show some added appreciation for going to work and taking risks to put up with you and be of a service to you.Better yet, just stay home and cook at home if you’re capable. I’d really like to speak my mind but I kept it nice so that this will get posted. Wishing good health for all. 

      • WS July 15, 2020 (7:03 am)

        Why are you victim blaming? 

    • mok4315 July 14, 2020 (9:13 pm)

      As someone who’s gone to several restaurants since they’ve opened outdoor seating, I 100% agree with you Heshee.  When you eat at a restaurant, you take the risk. The people at Duke’s are exposed to thousands of people on a good weekend, so statistically speaking, they were probably infected by the customers. The same customers who saw how crowded Alki and Dukes was and decided to eat there anyway. And I’m all for personal choice, but only if people accept the consequences of their choice. 

      • Plf July 15, 2020 (1:43 am)

        The challenge is that your choices has a ripple impact to othersthe high amount of folks spilling outside not keeping social distancing not all wearing masks cantransmit the virus days later to others who were not even there and don’t know you were 

  • Covid victim July 14, 2020 (6:38 pm)

    I’m terrified you are opening.  I got this dreaded disease from my child who Is a server at dukes.  It has been 14 days of hell and I have a long way to go to wellness. How can you possibility keep your servers safe? Shame on you. How do you eat and drink with a mask on.? Your busers  have to touch everything.  You should send them into the hospital with sick people and no mask what is the difference.  Shame on you. 

    • Nicole July 15, 2020 (10:27 am)

      ^^for you^^ For you, and so many others, are the reason this societal reaction is so inadequate. I’m so sorry you got sick, and I hope you fully, quickly recover.  This is so, so inappropriate of Dukes.   I hope they leave WSEA.  

  • miws July 14, 2020 (7:57 pm)

    Yeah, “saddened” instead of sorry sticks in my craw too. As does the claim they thought they were “…following safety protocols precisely.”, which aligns with the claim they made last week on at least one, but I believe two, local TV news stations that they had been following the protocols. (I don’t recall them replying the same to WSB when they broke the story before broadcast media did).  All I could think of was all the comments on WSB’s story from a few weeks before that table/customers at Duke’s were packed tightly together and nowhere *near* socially distant. —Mike 

  • Cycleman July 14, 2020 (8:00 pm)

    I couldn’t agree with HESHEE more!! If you feel you HAVE to go out to eat and socialize then you are running the risk of getting Covid. Don’t blame it on the workers or the business blame yourself.

  • Gatewood July 14, 2020 (9:12 pm)

    Duke’s used to be the first place we’d take out of town visitors for a nice intro to West Seattle (with Alki itself being a large part of the draw but their marionberry pie was amazing). I don’t believe Mr. Moscrip’s handling of reopening safety measures was in good faith nor was his communication about the outbreak, and his email to his “valued guests” was, at best, tone deaf. He straight up put his employees and our community at risk for COVID-19. I personally think dining in anywhere at this time is a risk not worth taking but Mr. Moscrip’s words & deeds were/are so cavalier that we shan’t ever return. And there is zero pleasure in saying so or breaking up with a favorite haunt. 

  • Dzag July 14, 2020 (10:42 pm)

    Duke’s has always been one of our favorite restaurants and it appears to be very out of character for them not to take responsibility. The only thing I can think of is that ownership is frightened and desperate. (This doesn’t excuse their behavior) When ownership is desperate to stay in business and keep their employees they sometimes use bad judgment. (This is probably happening at hundreds of restaurants and small businesses across America.  This being said my family and I won’t eat at any sit down restaurant until covid is more under control. 

  • David July 15, 2020 (6:38 am)

    You all do realize you don’t have to go eat out right? If that seems risky to you then you should stay home. It’s ignorance on all when an outbreak happens at a restaurant (small room with lots of people) during a PANDEMIC. 

    • KBear July 15, 2020 (9:05 pm)

      David, the problem is that the people eating out in restaurants get infected and then go to the grocery store. Or the doctor’s office. Or some other ACTUAL essential business. It’s not just a matter of personal risk tolerance. Your choices affect others, too. 

  • CW July 15, 2020 (7:47 am)

    I’m glad you’re back open!!! Can’t wait to visit soon!!!! Keep up the good work!!!!

  • Steve July 15, 2020 (7:53 am)

    So by now stating that their distancing of tables is ‘in compliance’ were they not before?  Weren’t the instructions from the Health Dept. pretty explicit?  I noticed when we ate there just prior to the second forced shutdown (we didn’t know about the first one yet) that every table was still in place…nothing had changed except plexiglass dividers on the booth backs.  You were still sitting back to back with the booth next to you.  If I was going to eat there again (which I will not any time soon, likely if ever) I’d be interested to see if KCH made them remove some seating.

  • 22blades July 15, 2020 (9:46 am)

    Taking people’s contact information but not actually using it is window dressing. Not even trying to be responsible.

  • Wsresident July 15, 2020 (10:17 am)

    They took my info, never contacted me. Outside they have never practiced distancing, tables on top of one another since day one. People stacked at the doorway. Totally irresponsible. 

  • Julie July 15, 2020 (10:59 am)

    Just wait until school open just for one or two days for students and adults who work in the school systems. Then we will see a increase in both adult and children who get to virus in the United States. 

    • AdmiralE July 15, 2020 (3:08 pm)

      That’s not what a scientific study out of Dresden Germany says (you know.. “science and data” like our Governor states frequently):Dresden studyIt’s in German but I’m sure you could figure out how to use a translator.

      The kicker is this bit “The spread of coronavirus in kindergartens, schools and families has apparently been overestimated. A study by the Faculty of Medicine at the Technical University of Dresden, for which more than 2000 students and teachers have been tested for antibodies since the reopening of schools in Saxony in the spring, did not provide any evidence that the virus is spreading particularly rapidly in schools, nor that it is transmitted particularly frequently by children. “It’s the opposite,” said study leader Reinhard Berner, director of the Polyclinic for Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Dresden University Hospital. “Children are more likely to act as brake pads of infection. Not every infection that arrives at them is passed on.””

  • Mellow Kitty July 16, 2020 (7:57 am)

    I’m curious – how many outraged commenters here today were outraged a week or two ago because restaurants were not opening soon enough, and further outraged about the limits on the number of customers allowed to dine inside?

Sorry, comment time is over.