Octapas Café started a new phase in the midst of pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic has dished up a steady serving of uncertainty — and in some instance, closures — for restaurants near and far. It was in that uncertainty that the folks at Octapas Café in downtown Olympia decided they were going to move from their original location to a new spot on Water Street.

They’ve been there now since mid-October, said co-owner and Chef Rick Mullins, who described the restaurant coming to something of a crossroads.

At their original location, they were restricted to carry-out only due to statewide health mandates. Sometimes they catered meals for Department of Health workers, too. The lease at the old spot was coming to an end, and Mullins said they had to make a decision.

“We had to decide, you know, are we just going to be done or are we going to go all in this new space?” Mullins said. “You can’t get enough good advice when you open a restaurant. Everyone around you tells you not to. … You have to kind of just be a little bit obsessed with restaurants to do it.”

The new spot, located at 610 Water St. SW, was previously home to Waterstreet Café, a classy spot known for its wine list. Back when Octapas was still just a concept, Mullins said they had their eye on the Water Street spot, but Waterstreet Café’s owners decided to renew their lease for another three years.

Instead, Octapas opened on Fourth Avenue in the spring of 2018, and made a name for itself, with its seafood-heavy menu, full bar, aquatic aesthetic and lively events in a large room to the back.

Then COVID hit, and rather than be done, Mullins said they went all in at the new spot, which was, by that time, vacant. With safety regulations still in place, the large patio at the spot would be a game changer. The outdoor space allows people to eat at the restaurant and still be in accordance with safety mandates.

So they started the process of cleaning and renovating, with friends, family and employees putting in many hours to get the spot ready to bear the Octapas name.

“When you ask people for help, they show up. So many people in the community have helped us move in here and clean up our other space and get this thing prepped and ready because it’s important to have a space to gather,” said Mullins.

The new space has indoor dining, but COVID-19 safety mandates have restricted restaurants from indoor seating until Feb. 1. So, until Monday, the patio is the only spot people can sit and eat. Mullins said there’s enough space for about 40 guests on the patio, but they rarely seat that many, because they want everyone to feel safe and comfortable.

“The main goal is to essentially put people at ease and take care of them,” said Mullins. With a limited number of tables, he said they encourage guests to limit their stay to a couple hours before letting someone else have the table.

There is an event space, but there’s no saying yet when it can be put to use.

Octapas Café is open Thursdays 3:30 to 8:30 p.m.; Friday 3:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. They can be reached at 360-878-9333.

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