Theater: Extreme Risk shutdown ‘poorly thought out’


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A small, locally-owned movie theater in Southeast Portland is closing its doors, again, as the state tightens COVID-19 restrictions.

Fifteen Oregon counties, including Multnomah County, move back to the “Extreme Risk” category on Friday. Governor Kate announced the rollbacks earlier in the week, saying the “rapid spread of COVID-19 in Oregon” has threatened to overwhelm healthcare providers.

The owners of the Clinton Street Theater say they’ve already lost about 90% of their business in the past year and this latest shutdown will be a devastating blow.

“If we were two miles to the west in Washington County, we wouldn’t have the same restrictions,” said Clinton Theatre co-owner Roger Leigh.

While they may try to rent the theater out for private showings, the owners say it’s difficult to keep the lights on with yet another financial setback.

“We were starting to schedule actual shows; we were limiting it to 20% of our audience, we were socially-distancing groups,” Leigh said. “We actually had our staff — who had received vaccines at that point — had been making sure they had their masks on throughout the movie.”

Theaters in Extreme Risk counties will have to limit capacity to six people.

“We feel that this current round of shutdown regulations are arbitrarily applied,” said Leigh. “We feel that… they do not seem to be scientifically based or data-driven and we feel that they are certainly unfair to our industry in particular.”

The Lucky Horseshoe Lounge in Southeast Portland, April 29, 2021. (KOIN)

The shutdown has a domino effect on other nearby businesses that rely on the theater’s patrons, including the Lucky Horseshoe Lounge next door. Owner Anne Marie DiStefano said more customers come to her outdoor patio when movies are playing at the theater.

“I never thought I was going to have to deal with something like this,” said DiStefano. “It’s discouraging. I felt everything was going in the right direction and now I feel like it’s not.”

The Lucky Horseshoe Lounge has enough outdoor seating to survive the return of Extreme Risk restrictions, unlike many other local restaurants and bars. DiStefano and Leigh hope this is the last time businesses in Multnomah County have to endure the setback.

“If this isn’t the last time — my brain will explode,” said DiStefano. “It’s been such a frustrating year, more than a year. Every time you think it’s getting better and it doesn’t get better it’s just a little bit harder.”

“We don’t fault the governor for most of her behavior — it’s a difficult time, we think she’s made a lot of good decisions,” said Leigh. “But we do feel like this latest one was poorly thought out.”

Baker, Clackamas, Columbia, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk and Wasco counties will be under Extreme Risk restrictions through Thursday, May 6.

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