Outdoor dining returns in MultCo; other venues still shuttered


Governor Kate Brown's new restrictions eased Thursday

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Restaurants in Multnomah County can begin offering outdoor dining once again as Governor Kate Brown’s new restrictions eased Thursday.

Under Brown’s four-tiered Risk and Protection Framework for COVID-19, up to 50 people will be allowed with no more than six people per table.

One local restaurant manager said he’s optimistic the health and safety guidelines will help ease the strain on some businesses. Hal Finkelstein, the manager at McMenamins Zeus Cafe, said the response from the community has been encouraging with many people calling in reservations for outside tables.

Finkelstein said the restaurant, located in McMenamins Crystal Hotel, had just started ramping up business when the freeze restrictions went into effect.

“We had built our business back to a very high degree and then with takeout only it really then dropped off substantially,” he said. “It’s like the air went out of the balloon. We were riding high and it became a real low low.”

The SOS Act

While Zeus Cafe will be able to recoup some profits by offering outdoor dining, other restaurants, bars and venues in the McMenamins family aren’t so fortunate. The Crystal Ballroom’s capacity is about 1,500 people but is unable to reopen in any capacity with no end in sight to current restrictions. In the meantime, the venue is paying roughly $70,000 a month on rent and utilities.

Jimi Biron, the Crystal Ballroom’s entertainment director, said the situation has left staff depressed.

“It’s terrible. We never could have imagined anything like this — being shut down since St. Patrick’s Day,” Biron said. “You can’t even make it work at a venue like this if it’s not full capacity.”

Biron urges the public to help venues like the Crystal Ballroom survive the pandemic closures by supporting the Save Our Stages (SOS) Act.

“Write your senators — whether you’re in Oregon or Washington it doesn’t matter — and it’s an opportunity to get dedicated funding for hospitality and performing arts spaces,” he said, emphasizing the cultural significance of the Crystal Ballroom.

Biron said the venue has hosted greats like Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix.

“It would be a travesty to lose this as a music venue. We’re over 100 years old, an iconic landmark. Every artist has played here,” he said. “Write your senators in support of the SOS Act.”

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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