Oregon counties are on the move again with an announcement today by Governor Brown’s office lowering extreme risk levels for 10 counties which allows restaurants in those regions to open for indoor dining on Friday, February 26.
“Oregon’s remaining metro areas surrounding the Salem area, Eugene area, and Medford area will be joining Portland Metro and the Bend area in bringing back indoor dining Friday,” said Jason Brandt, President & CEO for the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association. “Our operators are gearing up as we speak to make sure safety remains our number one priority for both industry employees and customers indoors. We are committed to doing this right to make employees and guests as comfortable as possible in bringing hospitality back to more of Oregon’s local economies.”
The news today means approximately 91 percent of Oregonians will now have access to indoor dining in the county where they live. About 9 percent, or close to 386,000 Oregonians, still live in a county limited to take out, delivery, and outdoor dining options. Counties designated as extreme risk include Benton, Coos, Douglas, Jefferson, and Josephine counties.
“We are happy to hear we have the opportunity to return to our business model which has always been reliant on full-service dining,” said John Barofsky, Co-Owner of Beppe & Gianni’s Trattoria in Lane County. “We have tried hard to keep most of our employees on the payroll throughout the pandemic but have had to cut hours to make that happen. Today’s news will allow us to increase the hours available to our workers by about 30 percent now that we have indoor dining coming back online.”
Barofsky and other operators across the state remain leery about the duration of time they will be allowed to continue indoor dining operations. For example, some operators in Portland chose not to open on Friday, February 12 even though they were given the green light to proceed. The two issues cited most frequently in deciding to stay closed indoors were the challenges in recruiting workers to return to work and the uncertainty indoor operations will remain open as of Friday, February 26. The open/close structure does little to assist hard hit restaurants with planning efforts that could help their employees pay their monthly bills and avoid permanent business closures. Today’s announcement confirms that all counties previously allowed to open indoor dining on February 12 will be able to continue indoor operations with the one exception in Douglas County.
“Some helpful news also included in today’s announcement is the number of restaurants that will be able to move to 50% indoor capacity from 25%,” said Brandt. “25% capacity is a real challenge for operators with smaller amounts of square footage in their business. Washington and Clackamas counties for example, are moving to moderate risk levels which means restaurants can move up to 50% indoor capacity or 100 total people indoors including staff, whichever is smaller. In addition, outdoor dining capacity in moderate risk counties moves up to 150 people.”
Restaurants who continue to operate in high risk counties including Multnomah will be limited to 25% indoor capacity or 50 people total including staff indoors, whichever is smaller. Outdoor dining capacity expands slightly as well in the high risk category and allows for 75 people total outdoors compared to the 50-person limit in the extreme category.
Oregon also has 3 new counties in the lowest risk category. Wasco, Lincoln, and Clatsop counties which can open at 50% capacity with no limitations on total number of people. In addition, restaurants in low risk counties can have as many as 300 people outdoors and stay open until midnight instead of 11pm like the other three risk categories.
For more information on the efforts of the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association please visit OregonRLA.org.