As the COVID-19 outbreak in Oregon continues to impact the local restaurant market, stories are popping up across the city, from food cart owners giving away free meals to chefs starting Instagram cooking classes. In this new version of AM Intel, we dive into different ways the state’s food service industry has been responding to the global pandemic. For more COVID-19 stories, check out our larger story stream.
Within the last two weeks, it seems like many restaurateurs have started to feel comfortable enough to re-enter the market after going on COVID-19 hiatus — Filipino spot Magna returns today (although all pre-orders for the week are sold out), Yonder has fired up its fryers again with fried chicken orders (also completely sold out), and big-name restaurateurs like Earl Ninsom (Hat Yai, Langbaan), Matt Vicedomini (Matt’s BBQ, Matt’s BBQ Tacos), and John and Renee Gorham (Toro Bravo, Tasty n Alder) have partially reopened many locations with takeout, delivery, or pre-orders. The Gorhams have even opened a new restaurant, Mama Sesame, with customizable falafel bowls. Even Mama Bird, the chicken spot from Eater Portland’s 2017 chef of the year, will start offering takeout in May.
However, some don’t feel healthy enough, or financially stable enough, to return — even with a Paycheck Protection Program loan. The Independent Restaurant Coalition, a trade group of restaurant figures including people like Beast’s Naomi Pomeroy, wrote an open letter to congress seeking at least an additional $120 billion in funds for the Independent Restaurant Stabilization Fund, which would set aside more grants for independent restaurants. The letter specifies that no publicly traded restaurant or chains with more than 20 locations should be allowed to access the fund, with a focus on restaurants owned by women and people of color. These provisions are likely a response to the backlash the PPP has received for giving loans originally publicized as small business loans to large-scale chains like Ruth’s Chris and Shake Shack; an Eater story showed that “It was the Independent Restaurant Coalition that first proposed that restaurants could qualify for small-business loans based on employees per location, not employees total.” An IRC spokesperson told Eater that the original bill they lobbied for included a $500 million cap, but that the cap was removed in the House.
In Other News...
• The Oregonian nabbed an early draft of the state’s plan for restaurant reopening, which may ask restaurant owners to collect names and contact information for their customers, for contact tracing. [Oregonian]
• In response to the financial impact of COVID-19, Bob’s Red Mill is giving away $5,000 to five restaurants each; people can nominate any restaurant in the United States online. [EaterWire]
• All AM Intel [EPDX]