‘We don’t understand’: Restaurants face return of Extreme Risk rules

Coronavirus

15 Oregon counties will rollback to Extreme Risk on Friday

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Restaurant owners across Oregon have reached wits’ end as COVID-19 case numbers surge and 15 counties prepare for sweeping restrictive measures.

Many believe their livelihoods have been unfairly targeted despite following Governor Kate Brown’s safety rules for more than 13 months. Brown announced the rollbacks on Tuesday, saying the “rapid spread of COVID-19 in Oregon” has threatened to overwhelm healthcare providers.

The Marathon Taverna on West Burnside in Portland will once again close its doors for at least a week when Multnomah County returns to the Extreme Risk category on Friday. Co-owner Anestis Polizos said the change is devastating.

“Shock and disappointment. People thought we got through the harder parts of it and nobody was expecting another shutdown,” Polizos said.

Extreme Risk level requires businesses, gyms and restaurants to drastically reduce capacity. Restaurants could only offer takeout and outdoor dining, though Brown did increase the outdoor capacity for bars and restaurants from 50 to 100 customers as long as safety measures are followed.

But most restaurants simply don’t have 100 outdoor seats. Such is the case for The Fields Bar & Grill in Portland’s Pearl District, which has 14 outdoor seats available.

“Our revenue is going to drop by 75%. That’s what’s going to happen,” said Jim Rice, the owner of The Fields Bar & Grill. “With that happening, that means we won’t be making enough revenue to pay our normal rent.”

Other establishments, such as the Marathon Taverna, don’t have any outdoor seating.

“So we’ll be closed completely and have to lay off our entire staff,” said Polizos.

Rice said Brown has unfairly targeted the restaurant industry.

“We don’t understand the fact that we’re being shut down yet I can sit next to someone on an airplane and drink a Coca-Cola elbow-to-elbow with people from all over the country,” Rice said. “That’s okay — but having people sit in a restaurant is wrong.”

Brown said she is working with state lawmakers to set up a $20 million emergency relief fund for businesses impacted by the rollbacks. She does not have a timeline for when that financial aid might be available.

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