Another COVID shutdown: Locals react
As news began spreading on Friday the 13th of November that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown had initiated a statewide two-week freeze for social gatherings and certain businesses, local leaders and business owners began making plans for a second mandatory closure.
Rumblings of the impending closure began spreading across the community, many doubting the closure would last only two weeks.
Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joe Krenowicz says the statewide two-week freeze is not good for most retail, restaurant and personal service businesses in Jefferson County.
He said if the freeze is not lifted on the scheduled Dec. 2 date, it could be devastating for some businesses.
"Businesses have pivoted their business models over the last eight months, and there are not many more pivot moves available to get through these economic trying times," Krenowicz said.
An additional area of concern, he noted, is building and property owners who may see non payments of business leases or rents if the freeze is not lifted in a very short period of time.
Madras city officials put out a message to the community Monday afternoon.
"During the next two weeks of Gov. Kate Brown's statewide 'pause,' Madras City Hall will remain open to residents needing to pay their utility bills, while arrangements for other in-person business may be scheduled by calling 541-475-2344," the notice states.
City parks and play areas will remain open, which is one change from the spring closure.
"Our primary focus is to protect our employees, reduce the number of COVID cases in our community so businesses can reopen fully and schools can hold 'in class' sessions," stated City Administrator Gus Burril.
Regarding recommendations from Brown on the role of law enforcement, "Officers of the Madras Police Department will continue to inform and educate," stated Madras Police Chief Tanner Stanfill.
"While none of us like the impacts these restrictions have on our community, we want to get through the next couple of weeks as quickly as possible with as little adverse impact on our businesses as possible," stated Madras Mayor Richard Ladeby. "In that regard, we encourage everyone to order takeout from our restaurants and continue to support businesses however they can, while taking precautions for their family and loved ones."
Restaurants are not allowed to offer dine-in services during the Nov. 18 through Dec. 2 freeze, although they may remain open for delivery and takeout.
Luis Basaldua, who owns Mazatlan Mexican Restaurant in Madras, said they will offer to-go meals and do promotions and discounts to try to get people into the restaurant, but he is most concerned about his employees during this two-week freeze.
"We still have 15 employees, which is way too much to have on a daily basis when the sales aren't coming in," he said, noting that some employees do not qualify for unemployment benefits or if they do, it's often not enough to support a family.
He said that during the spring pandemic closure, "We lost Mother's Day, and we lost Cinco de Mayo, which are important holidays for a Mexican restaurant. Luckily, we caught rhythm in the summer with the tourists and people coming through Madras."
This time of year, however, his business is most vulnerable. The restaurant relies on the locals, and now, they cannot offer dine-in during the freeze.
He worries some of his reliable employees will seek work elsewhere.
"I'm in a position where I'll have to keep them on the clock, and that definitely puts the business in a tough position," Basaldua said.
Indoor recreational facilities must close for two weeks, causing income loss for another sector of local businesses.
Madras Bowl and Pizza owner Christie Bouvia says the bowling alley part of her business will have to close, but she will offer takeout and delivery pizza.
"We're fortunate to be able to do food to go, so in that sense, we'll have a little bit of stream coming in," she said.
However, her three employees have been laid off.
Madras Bowl and Pizza had to close last spring because of pandemic restrictions as well.
"We did takeout pizza, and we started delivering, so we tried to re-invent ourselves a little bit," Bouvia said of the first shutdown.
She says she does not mind doing her part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and has been careful about making customers wear masks all summer and fall.
"It just seems a little lopsided to me, the fact that all the big stores can stay open and have hundreds of people, and I can't have 50," Bouvia said.
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