Throughout the last 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Portland restaurant owners and workers have faced previously unfathomable challenges, from figuring out how to serve customers relatively safely to surviving on unreliable unemployment benefits for the better part of a year. But even as the city’s restaurants and bars withstood months of dining room shutdowns, temporary closures, and workplace outbreaks, the looming threat of winter caused continuous anxiety within the industry.
In a good year, January tends to be slow for restaurants and bars. The combination of Dry January and diet-based new year’s resolutions keep many potential diners at home. However, the pandemic has created more hurdles for an already struggling industry: The trickle of business provided by outdoor patios slowed as the weather cooled, and the city’s famous rain made the premise of leaving the house even less desirable. End-of-year costs piled on to an already increasing mass of debt for restaurant owners. And many restaurant workers have begun contemplating whether a career in the industry is even feasible moving forward.
So now, in the middle of January, winter is undeniably here. Some businesses are still standing, but countless others have gone on hiatus for the winter, hoping to reopen when the good weather returns in the spring. More chefs are considering delivery-only businesses — not just “pandemic pivots,” but as a permanent business model. Here at Eater Portland, we want to talk with the industry itself — the bartenders, the chefs, the business owners, the servers — to hear how they are faring in the new year. Has business definitively dropped? Are tips disappearing? Are takeout cocktail sales helping at all, or are they yet another sunk cost? Food and beverage workers can give us an update via this Google Form, anonymously or on the record. Ideally, we’d have all of our responses in by January 25.