Bar and restaurant owners across Oregon are reorienting, again: Gov. Kate Brown announced that the state’s bars and restaurants will be able to re-open for outdoor dining on December 3.
Currently, the entire state is under a two-week freeze — Multnomah County is under a four-week pause — that bars onsite dining, shutters museums and outdoor recreation sites, and limits Oregonians to social interactions with one other household. Those restrictions, which began November 18, limit bars and restaurants to takeout and delivery only.
Starting December 3, counties will be split into four different risk levels, as designated by the Oregon Health Authority. Each county’s risk level determines what its businesses and residents can do. Fifteen counties fall into lower, moderate, or high risk categories, which means each of those counties can reopen for outdoor and indoor dining. Twenty-one counties considered “extreme risk” will be able to reopen gyms for outdoor activities and allow outdoor service at restaurants and bars for up to 50 people, with no more that six people per table.
Interestingly, Brown is tightening restrictions on retail establishments in extreme risk counties, limiting capacity to 50 percent at places like malls and grocery stores. The curfew has also been extended to 11 p.m. in extreme, high, or moderate-risk counties, as opposed to 10 p.m. Counties will be re-evaluated on November 30, which could put them into new categories.
Resuming outdoor dining is likely a huge relief to industry owners who invested thousands of dollars into outdoor dining set-ups summer and fall. However, the constant back-and-forth from the state carries its own difficulties. “I’m both relieved and actually pretty furious at the same time. The state is making this so hard,” says Colin Carroll, co-owner of the Foster-Powell cocktail bar 5 & Dime. “I just pulled down all the canopies for our outdoor seating, and was about an hour away from announcing on Instagram how we were going to pivot our business at least through the holidays. I had to furlough all the employees (again), helped them get unemployment and SNAP benefits back up. Now we’re going to back pedal and set everything back up? For how long?”
Multnomah County released its own statement, which hinted that the county may stay under the current freeze restrictions after December 3. “Gov. Kate Brown announced new health and safety measures for Oregon counties. While these new metrics signal the next phase of how the state will evaluate, report and respond to COVID-19 cases, Multnomah County will remain in its current ‘freeze’ until at least Dec. 3, 2020,” the statement from the county reads. “The situation is so serious that Multnomah County will be evaluating weekly what restrictions will best protect our community during this current increase.” However, Multnomah County spokesperson Julie Sullivan-Springhetti has confirmed that the county will reopen for outdoor dining on December 3.
The state has released a chart explaining what each county can do at each risk level. These are the following risk levels of each Oregon county, as of November 25:
Update November 25, 2020 at 4:30 p.m.
This story has been updated to include a statement from the Multnomah County press office.
Update November 30, 2020, at 4:47 p.m.
This story has been updated to include a definitive statement from the county regarding its plans to reopen for outdoor dining Thursday.
• County risk level chart [Official]
• Multnomah County statement [Official]
• Gov. Kate Brown will loosen many of Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions: Bars and restaurants can open for outdoor dining next week [O]
• Oregon Pauses Indoor and Outdoor Dining at Restaurants and Bars for at Least Two Weeks [EPDX]
• How Coronavirus Is Impacting the Portland Restaurant World [EPDX]