Restaurant industry questions current draft for re-opening

Coronavirus

The biggest challenges could be social distancing, collecting customer data

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Health officials announced Friday that the state is now able to test around 15,000 people per week for the coronavirus, and they’re looking to increase that number as businesses start to reopen. The governor is also looking to finalize a set of guidelines for businesses and restaurants to reopen in the weeks ahead.

There is a lot of uncertainty around this. Restaurants said under the draft that’s been presented, the biggest challenges could come from social distancing and collecting customer data.

At Mother’s Bistro and Bar, employees have been serving up dinner Tuesday through Saturday for delivery or pickup. Although owner Lisa Schroeder said restaurants are eager to fully reopen, the drafted guidelines on how to do that could be challenging. Take for example, the recommendation to keep everyone six feet apart.

Lisa Schroeder, owner of Mother’s Bistro. March 14, 2020 (KOIN)

“We did have 102 employees before this all started, and we are down to about 6-7,” said Schroeder. “What will be easy for me might be to separate the tables 6 feet because we have so much space in our new location. That’s not going to be easy for a lot of other restaurants.”

In addition to the six-foot rule, other draft guidelines include limiting businesses to 50% capacity and keeping parties to ten people or fewer.

“If you’ve got a part of ten people coming in and we have to distance them six feet from another party, you could quickly get to the 50% capacity with only 2-3 parties,” said Greg Astley, Director of Government Affairs for the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association.

He said he’s also concerned about draft guidelines that suggest restaurants collect customer information so health officials can track them down if needed.

“If there is any kind of data breach in the collection of that information, then, do the restaurants become liable for that?” asked Astley.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

Some of the other suggestions include closing at 10 p.m., disinfecting surfaces between customers, placing condiments in single-serving containers, no pre-set tables, and prohibiting self-service buffets, salad bars, and soda machines.

“Now we’ll be doing rollups that are brought to the table with every order,” said Schroeder.

She said she’s most concerned for the smaller businesses.

“What will they do? Who will they navigate this? I’m worried for them,” said Schroeder.

The guidelines are only a draft and are subject to change. Governor Brown said Friday that her team is meeting with people who actually work in restaurants and malls. She said the sector guidelines for those types of businesses are still being developed.

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