PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Clackamas County was approved for Phase I of reopening by the governor’s office on Friday. It’s the first county in the Portland area to get approval to start the reopening process, which begins Saturday, May 23.
Going into Phase I this weekend, Clackamas County will now be able to allow gatherings of up to 25 people with physical distancing. Bars, restaurants, gyms, malls, and other personal services will also be allowed to open.
It was a spring night in downtown Milwaukie and the streets were quiet on the eve of reopening. KOIN 6 News spoke with several people in the area and one thing everyone brought up was the fear of more setbacks if another outbreak occurs.
“This was a very happening place for families,” said Carl. He works downtown, but did not want to be fully identified for privacy reasons. “Turned into a ghost town.”
“It’s usually completely filled, like, all chairs and tables filled,” said Taylor Rose-Joli.
“The people I’ve talked to downtown, the business owners, they’re ready to reopen,” said Carl.
It’s been almost two and a half months since the state ordered Oregon’s restaurants to close their dining rooms.
“It was really devastating,” said Rose-Joli, who was a bartender at Duffy’s Irish Pub. She said, starting this weekend, they’re opening doors to customers seven days a week. But the state requires them to close for the night by 10 p.m.
“Which also cuts back hours, and bartenders live a lot on tips, so with having half capacity, it’s going to be difficult to have a living wage,” said Rose-Joli.
Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba said some businesses are reluctant to open, saying they wouldn’t be able to ride the financial roller coaster of another state-mandated closure if there’s a spike in cases.
“Some of the businesses I talked to today were like, ‘I don’t think we’re going to open up just yet,'” described Gamba.
He said the city was able to help some of its business owners through a grant program. And even though entering Phase I offers a glimmer of hope, Gamba is still worried that Milwaukie could lose many of its small businesses.
“Frankly, there’s a lot of small businesses that are like a lot of Americans, kind of hand to mouth. They function from week to week and if they have a bad month, a really bad month, that could put them out of business,” said Gamba. “And this has been way worse than any bad month.”
For business owners who feel they are ready to open their doors to customers this weekend, guidelines on how to do so safely are available online.