PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Restaurants and bars in Oregon are creating action plans to get ready to reopen under new guidelines that were announced by Governor Kate Brown this week. One of the new requirements mandates that establishments close down by 10 p.m.
One spokesperson from the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association said he believes staying open later would actually be safer because it would give more people time to filter out of the bars instead of rushing in during limited hours.
“This is typically our busiest time of year,” said Jim Rice, owner of The Fields Bar and Grill. Although they missed the big March Madness crowds, owners Jim and Jan Rice said they have been running a popular take out service during the pandemic.
“Our customer base — they are being as supportive as they can,” said Jan.
But they are already planning for the day when they can reopen. Jim said he will probably lose about 60% of his seating after pushing the tables six feet apart. Nevertheless, he is excited.
“Without a doubt,” said Jim. “Just hearing the words ‘we are starting to reopen again’ is exciting.”
Along with spacing tables out, the state also requires restaurants and bars to close by 10 p.m.
“If those bars are open late into the night, oftentimes if people lose track of how much they are drinking, they may not keep their physical distance as much,” said Dr. Dead Sidelinger, Oregon state Health Officer, and Epidemiologist.
That is something the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association has taken a hard look at.
“We don’t know exactly why the Oregon Health Authority chose 10 p.m. as the magical hour to close restaurants and bars,” said Greg Astley, Executive Director of Government Affairs for the ORLA. He believes a later closing time would actually be safer. “Let’s just say you were able to stay open until 2 a.m. That’s four more hours when people are going to have the opportunity to filter out of a restaurant, rather than a hard stop.”
With smaller occupancy due to social distancing measures, Astley said restaurants can use all the time they can get.
“We can get an additional ten tables for four people over a couple of hours — that’s more revenue for the restaurants that have been hurting,” said Astley.
Jim said the curfew won’t have too much impact on The Fields, but he has plenty of other things to plan for.
“It’s a lot of unknown and everybody’s walking through it,” said Jim.
Astley said although some of those requirements will be tough, he said his organization was happy that a proposal to get customer information for contact tracing was not adopted into the guidelines. Also nixed was the proposal to limit restaurants to 50% capacity. Astley said that will help bar and restaurant owners to have an easier time opening up as well.