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Oregon Pauses Indoor and Outdoor Dining at Restaurants and Bars for at Least Two Weeks

Multnomah County will remain under these restrictions for four weeks, minimum

Kate Brown sits in front of American Flags at a press conference
Gov. Kate Brown in a Nov. 13 press conference
Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.

Gov. Kate Brown announced that all Oregon bars and restaurants must close their indoor and outdoor dining rooms for two weeks, a part of a new set of COVID-19 safety restrictions. From Wednesday, November 18 to December 2, all restaurants must be takeout only, all social gatherings are limited to six people from no more than two households, and faith-based gatherings are limited to 50 people outdoors and 25 indoors. Grocery stores will be limited to 75 percent capacity.

After the two weeks, the state will re-evaluate to see which counties will need to stay at this level. Some counties will stay under these restrictions for longer: “Multnomah County, for example, will be in this freeze for at least four weeks,” Brown says. “I want to be honest about that now.”

The rise in indoor gatherings has caused a massive spike in cases throughout the state, especially in Portland. On Wednesday, certain counties around the state — including Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas — started a “two-week pause” on social gatherings, limiting indoor restaurant capacity to 50 people and table party size to six customers. Yesterday, however, Oregon broke its daily case record by hundreds of cases, passing the 1,000 case mark with 303 new hospitalizations.

Brown first shut down dining rooms and restaurants in March, when cases first started to climb in Oregon. It was something restaurant owners and bar owners had called for back then, for the sake of their employees and so the restaurant owners could file business interruption claims. That was before many discovered that their insurance companies wouldn’t, in fact, be covering the loss of business.

Soon afterward, Brown introduced the state’s reopening plan, one that relied on a “phased” model. After counties reached a certain benchmark of testing capacity and hospital bed vacancies, they could begin to open restaurants with limited capacity, mask requirements, and a 10 p.m. curfew. Multnomah County has been in “phase one” since June, and since then, Portland bars and restaurants have slowly begun to reopen their doors. Restaurateurs have invested in outdoor dining areas, patios with covered seating. Some restaurant owners invested in air scrubbers and overhauled ventilation systems for their indoor dining areas, expecting customers to move inside. In a recent Eater Poll, most business owners who responded reported spending somewhere between $5,000 and $15,000 on construction or technology to make indoor or outdoor dining safer, bracing for a winter slowdown and spike in cases. That spike has arrived, and with a fury.

Some restaurant owners saw this coming, or have become resigned to the state of business in 2020. “I look at 2020 as a total loss,” says Aaron Adams, owner of the vegan deli Fermenter, in a recent Eater poll. “I look at everything I’m doing as an investment for next year. If we can hold out we’ll be better positioned.”

Takeout and delivery are still fair game for restaurants, so those looking to support restaurants right now can still do so. Watch the full press conference here.

Gov. Kate Brown press conference [Official]
Oregon Coronavirus Information Hub [Official]
Oregon Orders Closure of All Bars and Restaurant Dining Rooms [EPDX]
Open Letter Asks Gov. Kate Brown to Shut Down Oregon’s Restaurants and Bars Amid COVID-19 Outbreak [EPDX]
Why Insurers Won’t Cover Businesses’ Coronavirus Losses [OPB]
Portland Begins Reopening on June 19 [EPDX]