PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Inflation and a rise in crime are damaging restaurants that were already hurting since the 2020 COVID pandemic.

Cracker Barrel announced closures in Beaverton and Tualatin earlier this week. Now, Portland’s oldest Jewish deli is closing at the end of the month.

So what exactly needs to happen for restaurants to turn things around?

Jason Brandt, the president of the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, says Portland can count on restaurant closures being commonplace in 2023.

The association says that 2,000 out of the 10,000 restaurants across the state have closed since the start of COVID, but more than 1,200 have also opened.

Kornblatt’s Deli in Northwest Portland was one of the latest restaurants to shutter. The owner told KOIN 6 News they will lock up for good on March 30.

Kornblatt's Delicatessen on NW 23rd in Portland, March 21, 2023 (KOIN)
Kornblatt’s Delicatessen on NW 23rd in Portland, March 21, 2023 (KOIN)

However, a bagel shop will soon take its place. The owner of Henry Higgins’ Boiled Bagels told KOIN 6 News they will open a location in this space on May 1.

Kornblatt’s lovers showed up en masse for lunch on Tuesday hoping to get one last taste of their favorites including rubens, matzo ball soup and bagels with lox.

Koby Hanson and Anya Walker are two of countless Portlanders sad to say goodbye to Kornblatt’s Deli. 

“It was actually one of the first places we went to when we started dating,” Walker said.

She said she’s sad about the deli closing, but is not surprised.

“You kinda thought when the pandemic sort of lifted that more people would want to eat out, they wouldn’t want to stay at home all day like we had been, but sadly that’s not really the case and you see restaurants struggling a lot,” Walker said.

Kornblatt’s opened three decades ago. Kornblatt’s owner told KOIN 6 News the deli never fully recovered from the impacts of the pandemic, and also said that foot traffic along Northwest 23rd Street has decreased drastically due to homelessness and crime.

“We have to do so much more to create the sense of safety and security and really keep this practice of criminal acts where we’re just breaking random windows in small business shops across the region,” he said. “I mean, that just has to stop. And we need to be able to have a way to address even the minor infractions at a time when maybe we’re having to prioritize major crimes.”

Brandt said business owners, especially in the downtown core, are desperate for a visible police presence. He met with Governor Tina Kotek on Tuesday and said they discussed getting more officers on the street.

Kornblatt's Delicatessen on NW 23rd in Portland, March 21, 2023 (KOIN)
Kornblatt’s Delicatessen on NW 23rd in Portland, March 21, 2023 (KOIN)

“We have to increase capacity to make sure that people can get through the academy process so that the officers can get out on the streets and make the difference,” Brandt said.

However, he also believes there are brighter days ahead because entrepreneurs are still opening restaurants

“As long as we can continue to keep our eye on the prize and focus on these areas that could take us off track and result in more lost business, we’re gonna have more and more consumer demand over the next decade,” he said.