Industry is ‘being gutted’: Grill owner braces for COVID closures

Coronavirus

"I can't even explain what our team is going through right now"

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As another set of coronavirus restrictions loom, statewide for two weeks, but for some places, four weeks, KOIN 6 News’ Reporter Jenny Young followed up with a couple who was interviewed back in March when the shutdown first impacted their bar and grill. Almost eight months ago to the day, they, along with every other restaurant owner in the state of Oregon, were preparing to close their doors and switch their business entirely to takeout.

Jim and Jan Rice have worked for months to rebound from the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In March, they had to layoff almost every member of their staff at the Fields Bar and Grill. They were eventually able to re-hire them with funds from the federal stimulus package.

“We’re going to see icons, amazing places that we loved to go for decades are now going to disappear because of what we’re looking at in the next few months,” said Jim.

Jim and Jan Rice, the owners of The Fields Bar & Grill in Northwest Portland, March 25, 2020. (KOIN)

KOIN 6 News spoke to them once again on Friday, just ahead of the hard conversations Jim will have to have with 15 of the 18 people who work at the restaurant.

“I’m having conversations with them tonight, and I’ll be talking with them over the weekend,” said Jim. “I can’t even explain what our team is going through right now. You’re talking about an industry that mainly lives paycheck to paycheck. They’ve already experienced it earlier in the year. Now, they’re going to experience it just before our holidays, or actually through our holidays.”

Jim believes that the governor’s statewide freeze, although painful, is necessary. However, he hoped state leaders would have offered solutions to help the restaurant industry survive.

“They’re coming out with this decision with nothing in the conversation about what they’re going to do to help these businesses,” said Jim. “We have an amazing restaurant and bar industry that creates culture, that defines who we are as Oregonians, and right now, that’s being gutted, that’s literally going to be collapsing.”

The Oregon Employment Department released a statement Friday evening saying they will be using the help of the National Guard to process the expected increase in claims.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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