Small restaurants face big obstacles in pandemic reopening

Coronavirus

Normandie owner wants to reopen for in-person dining, but there are issues

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Before the pandemic hit, there were 15 people on staff at Normandie, a Southeast Portland restaurant that successfully navigated its first year.

But Judson Winquist, who with his wife Amanda Cannon Winquist and Chef Heather Kintler owns Normandie, said he had to furlough everyone on the staff. It’s now just the 3 of them there.

Unlike most other counties in the state, Multnomah County has not yet re-opened. Winquist and many other restaurant owners remain operating as delivery or take-out operations.

How close is Multnomah County to entering Phase 1?

He told KOIN 6 News he wants to reopen for in-person dining. But that may not be the answer. And there are other factors at play for small restaurants like Normandie.

Normandie, 1005 SE Ankeny in Portland, May 21, 2020 (KOIN)

“When you do reopen you’re going to have to close early, have to operate at 50% capacity and by the way, the price of protein is going to double,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Right now, those numbers just don’t add up.

“How are we going to bring all of our employees back when we are supposed to operate at 50% capacity?” he said. “It was difficult enough as it was.”

And getting the employees back might be more difficult that you’d think.

“They have to return to work and we will pay them, which might be a little bit less than what they are now collecting on unemployment,” Winquist said.

It’s a similar scenario in Dundee, where the Red Hills Market began welcoming dine-in customers this week after Yamhill County entered Phase 1.

Michelle and Jody Kropf said they’ve been fortunate. With dining in they were able to retain about 70% of their 60 employees. But it wasn’t easy.

“It was almost as difficult as opening the restaurant for the first time because we rewrote our business plan,” Kropf said. “We rewrote our practices on how we, the staff, clear tables, everything.”

Judson Winquist owns Normandie, a SE Portland restaurant affected by the pandemic, May 21, 2020 (KOIN)

But in Portland — and throughout Multnomah County — the future of restaurants is unclear.

“I have no idea what our business model is going to be,” Winquist said. “We’re going to have to reevaluate what services we, if we want to include brunch or lunch, because, you know, dinner service has to now end at 10 o’clock. I have no idea.”

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