‘Just brutal’: Restaurants navigate uncharted COVID waters


Difficulties reopening, concerns of a second wave

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland’s restaurant industry is suffering, and with COVID-19 cases on the rise, will restaurants take an even bigger hit? One thing restaurant owners are concerned about is if there’s going to be a second wave of the virus, and if they will have to shut down again. Some said it would mean closing doors for good.

Gary Geist has owned Lucky Labrador Brewing for more than 25 years. Back in March, they closed all four locations a few days before the governor mandated it. After being closed for three months, Geist said it took a lot of work to reopen.

“Going into the first reopening was just brutal,” said Geist. “You know, we’re used to doing things a certain way and then, all of a sudden, we’ve got to change our whole business format.”

Beer lovers and Lucky Lab regulars were excited when the pubs opened back up in mid-June. But two weeks later, Geist made the decision to close again. It was a proactive decision.

“I said I just don’t feel comfortable because if somebody on our staff gets sick, that’s just going to be horrible for everybody,” said Geist.

On Tuesday, a Burgerville location in Northeast Portland closed for the rest of the week after an employee there tested positive for COVID-19.

A Northeast Portland Burgerville closes after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. July 10, 2020 (KOIN)

“My general manager said everybody’s gotten tested or everybody’s going to get tested. So, for me personally, that makes me feel better about going back to work,” said Erika Allard, who is a member of the Burgerville Workers Union. The group said workers would strike if the restaurant chain doesn’t meet their demands.

“We want to give everybody time who wants to get tested to do so and get the results back,” said Burgerville Spokesperson Hillary Barbour. She said the Northeast location will likely reopen on Monday and said they hired a company that cleans hospitals to disinfect the building.

“They are required to follow CDC, EPA, and FDA guidelines,” said Barbour. Burgerville is paying for COVID-19 testing for employees, according to Barbour, as well as paying workers who have to quarantine.

“We have customers who are looking for just a little joy in their life and some onion rings and some raspberry milkshakes to help their kids get through the summer, which is really tough,” said Barbour.

If a restaurant is notified that an employee has tested positive for the coronavirus, they are required to report it to the county. But the county said, in most cases, that does not mean the restaurant will have to close.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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