‘We’ll do OK’: Customers return to re-opened indoor dining

Coronavirus

Restaurants, pubs on both sides of Columbia River open at 25% capacity

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After a storm-delayed reopening, bars and restaurants on both sides of the Columbia River are once again welcoming indoor diners.

Many customers are returning, a big relief to the bar and restaurant owners who have been through a challenging and sometimes miserable 11 months.

The Park City Pub in Northeast Portland had to wait several days for the parking lot to get plowed before it could reopen its doors. But the customers are back — ordering food and enjoying the lottery machines which are spaced 6 feet apart.

People play lottery games inside at the Park City Pub in Northeast Portland, February 22, 2021 (KOIN)

Owner William Hurst had to hibernate his business twice since the pandemic began, so even a return to 25% capacity gives him great hope for the future.

“If the rates are staying down and we can stay open and progress to the next risk level and get 50% in here, we’ll do OK,” he said.

Hurst said they needed to be open in February “or we were going to be in a bind. Fortunately, the PPP came up and our loan was approved so we could pay our rent and utilities and give our employees some back income to keep them afloat.”

The current capacity is good for customer William Lightning.

“I like this because there’s not many people and I can’t normally hear people,” Lightning said. “So this kind of capacity is great for me. I like having less noise around me so I can hear the person in front of me.”

Diners sit inside at the Park City Pub in Northeast Portland, February 22, 2021 (KOIN)

In Southwest Washington, it’s been a week since indoor dining returned. Tables filled up within minutes of opening on Monday at Grains of Wrath in downtown Camas.

Grains of Wrath owner Brenden Greenen was forced to lay off employees when the pandemic first hit. Then he downsized to take-out only and moved to an outdoor tent model before now operating at 25% capacity.

But nothing beats indoor dining, he said.

“Masking up and keeping distance has been very important to our operation, to make sure to get back to whatever normal is going to be,” Greenen said.

The survivors in the restaurant industry are a resilient bunch. They’re also hopeful that positivity rates will continue to fall — so even more restrictions can be eased.

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