Lake Oswego businesses resume 'normal' operations
After more than a year of uncertainty and limited services, many businesses that may have once had to shutter blinds or severely curtail operations are now seeing a brighter future ahead.
Lake Oswego gyms and restaurants were among several industries that were hit hard during the pandemic. But after Gov. Kate Brown announced that COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted June 30, businesses were allowed to eliminate restrictions related to social distancing, capacity and facial coverings.
Trainer's Club owner Jenny Lakey said memberships are gradually increasing after the gym had to significantly limit services to home workouts, online and outdoor classes. Trainer's Club went back and forth between shutting down and reopening at a very limited capacity during the pandemic.
"Things are looking up. We are thrilled to not have to ask people for vaccination proof — that was something we didn't love doing," said Lakey, adding that people don't need to reserve a gym time anymore and can work out as they please. "I'm glad I don't have to walk around in a nearly empty gym anymore. It was sad."
Trainer's Club is no longer offering virtual options. All classes are back in the studio or outside on the back deck.
The steam rooms and saunas are open again and the caution tape has been removed from certain machines as there are no longer limitations on social distancing.
One of the changes moving forward, Lakey said, is people will need to sign up for group classes, which they found helps manage classes better.
"I learned how important it is to stay in touch with our community. I learned how important the gym is to our community here," Lakey said. "The people here are really the core of what makes Trainer's Club work — both the staff and the professionals and the members, everybody. It's just amazing, the energy around here is totally different. Everyone is just happy."
Similarly, Kalani Pa, owner of Lake Oswego's Anytime Fitness, credits the support of the community, gym members and their landlord for helping the business stay afloat.
During the pandemic, members put together a GoFundMe and raised almost $5,000.
"Obviously, a lot of our members have come back. A lot of them had found it hard to work out with a mask for obvious reasons," Pa said. "Now that the mask mandate is lifted, we got back to being busy again."
Prior to reopening its doors, the gym offered virtual classes and training throughout the pandemic. Pa said the gym will continue offering virtual training and classes indefinitely.
"(We are) blessed and grateful that we have our gym ohana (family)," Pa said. "That feeling of ohana has really helped us survive. That's what family does."
April Garstin, general manager at Gemini Bar & Grill, said the second time the bar closed was Nov. 17 and it remained closed until the beginning of June.
"Luckily we opened and then within a few weeks, a month, the restrictions ended," said Garstin, adding that if they didn't open when they did, the future of the bar would be a concern. "It was difficult — lots of planning and saving and stress. It was hard but we just did it one day at a time. Luckily the landlord of the building worked with us and was gracious."
Though the bar is not operating like it was prior to the pandemic, Garstin is happy to be open Wednesday through Saturday from 4-11 p.m., with talk of expanding to Tuesdays and for lunch soon.
Garstin said there is bingo on Wednesdays, which provides "fun banter" and live music the remaining days at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
"You get into this industry to entertain," said Garstin, adding that people live stressful lives. "So when they come out, they want to leave it at the door and just enjoy. So, it's hard going against what we're naturally there to do."
Lake Oswego Mayor Joe Buck, who owns Gubanc's Restaurant, Lola's Cafe Bar, Babica Hen Cafe and Twin Fir Kitchen — the latter in partnership with Lisa Shaw Ryan — said transitioning to fully reopening his restaurants has been smooth.
"People are really excited to be out ... things gradually ramped up over these past several months, which in a way was really good because it allowed us to incrementally bring folks back on board, hire, increase the capacity," Buck said. "It wasn't just from minimal capacity to full capacity overnight"
Gubanc's, which has operated out of Babica Hen throughout the pandemic, will also reopen in its own space later this month.
Buck said he plans to continue certain practices picked up during the pandemic.
"The pandemic is still out there," said Buck, adding that he's thankful there is a high number of people vaccinated throughout the city.
Buck said he wants to avoid people crowding indoors while waiting for tables, and he will continue to have people wait outside.
While Lola's prides itself on sustainability, Buck acknowledges that this took a backseat in many ways during the pandemic as customers opted for takeout and disposable containers.
"Now we can fill peoples' reusable thermoses with coffee," Buck said. "It's nice to get back to reusing things again."
While Twin Fir will remain delivery and pickup only, Buck said changes may be on the horizon.
"We're always looking for ways to be responsive to the needs of the guests we have coming in," Buck said. "Stay tuned."
Buck said one of the things he learned through the pandemic was how well people can adapt to new practices.
"It's been really incredible, especially for the employees who were there day in and day out during the pandemic, working in a whole new way in difficult circumstances," he said. "To see that resiliency and their dedication to hospitality and taking care of others in rather difficult circumstances … It's just been great to see the strength generated by everyone putting their heads together, working well together."
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