And so ends year two of the pandemic. What’s next?

How fortuitous that our annual focus on the hospitality industry coincides with the end of our state’s mask mandate.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee lifted the mandate on March 12, in tandem with Oregon and California.

Masks are no longer mandatory in most indoor settings, including schools, so the time seems right to get out and explore the Tri-Cities’ many and varied restaurants.

We feature several in this month’s issue: Anthony’s at Columbia Point, Budd’s Broiler, Frost Me Sweet, Boiada Brazilian Grill, Dagupan Grill, Popular Donuts, Uncle Sam’s Saloon and the ones opening at the Summer’s Hub food truck pavilion later this spring.

The anticipated May opening of The Public Market @ Columbia River Warehouse in downtown Kennewick also means more options, including fare from Columbia Industries’ Opportunity Kitchen.

This month also notably marks the end of the second year of the pandemic. All signs (and low Covid-19 case rates) point to brighter times ahead, nicely coinciding with the arrival of spring.

That said, not all businesses have weathered the trying times, and they continue to rely on our community’s support.

The average Washington restaurant has racked up more than $160,000 in debt during the pandemic, writes Anthony Anton, president and chief executive officer of the Washington Hospitality Association, in his column.

It’s been a rough couple of years for many, from bleak bottom lines to job losses, from shaky mental health to the loss of loved ones.

The picture is brightening, but the sailing is not smooth. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, staffing shortages, inflation, rising fuel prices and supply chain slowdowns mean business leaders laugh when asked to predict the future.

Despite the challenges, business experts, employees and students were generally optimistic in the fifth annual business survey, conducted by Washington State University’s Carson College of Business.

Dean Chip Hunter offers his take on the results and tips on adapting to changing expectations, particularly those from Gen Z, in this story.

These are turbulent and changing times, so we ask the community to practice patience and kindness with one another as we move into the third year of this pandemic. And as we like to chirp, please continue to support (and read) local.

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