Sandy area restaurants take hit amid COVID-19 crisis
Despite local eateries' best efforts to make disinfection and cleanliness their top priority, Gov. Kate Brown on March 16 banned all Oregon restaurants, bars and other food establishments from serving food inside their businesses.
All food must be served carryout or via delivery. Establishments not compliant with the new orders will be subject to a misdemeanor, Brown said.
For some establishments that already had online ordering and regular takeout customers, the switch wasn't too difficult, though overall business has declined since concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, first arose.
Coffee to go
While a lot of people have made Mountain Moka their first (or perhaps more frequent) stop of the day, owner Tina Hovey said the restrictions and fear in the community right now have definitely cut her business by at least 50%.
She also noted the impact the cut in business has had on her suppliers since she's been "tapering off ordering" as well.
"There's no inside seating right now," she said. "We're wiping down things above and beyond, (and) we're actually asking people to come in to order one at a time and wait outside."
They aren't doing curbside service, but Hovey said that "if people are really scared they can call us and we will deliver to their car."
During the partial closure, Hovey explained that she's also had to cut down staffing to run a skeleton crew of two baristas rather than her usual four.
"I'm trying to be socially responsible in so many ways," Hovey said. "I think if we just hit this hard for two weeks, everybody will be the better for it."
Just down the street at AntFarm Cafe and Bakery, Executive Director Nunpa is working to put an effective to-go system in place. While it's been possible in the past for people to order to go from the cafe, the online system now on the AntFarm's website is new.
The cafe's full menu is available via that online service.
Nunpa noted that one of the biggest challenges of the current situation is balancing the cafe, which traditionally has brought in a great deal of the business's cash flow, and the nonprofit services that cash flow helps fund.
"We are still trying to figure out exactly what to do," Nunpa said. "We want to stay really focused on our mission (and for that) we're going to take a huge hit, for sure. We want to make sure we're helping our seniors; how do we get food to them?"
Staffing in the cafe has been scaled back, with people working fewer hours and fewer people working at a time, though Nunpa noted that "I'm definitely working hard not to lay off anybody."
Managers have taken a cut in pay, continuing to work full-time but taking less in wages for it.
"We're definitely taking a cut," Nunpa said. "It's more than just the cafe. Everything's just kind of grinding to a halt. This is really putting AntFarm at risk in the big picture."
Take home or stay home
Another staple in Sandy, the iconic Tollgate Inn Restaurant, also is feeling the effects of the restaurant restrictions.
The bakery remains open, but customers must order and take it to go. There is no dining in. On the restaurant side, owner Ron Lesowski said he and staff are working on doing takeout, but there has been a definite decline in people just going out in general.
"People just aren't moving about," he said. "Hopefully that will change. Business-wise this could really affect a lot of people. I feel really sorry for all the food service workers. We buy from Cisco and their business is effectively shut down because restaurants aren't ordering."
As far as Tollgate staffing, Lesowski said, "we're still trying to read the state guidelines to make the least impact on our employees and cutomers."
While business is tough now, Lesowski explained that he is determined to remain "guardedly optimistic."
"I think the positive side of this is we're all in this together," he said.
New to the Sandy restaurant scene, Le Happy Creperie and Cocktail Bar was "off to a great start" in its first week open last week. Monday fewer people were coming in and now the restaurant has shut down the cocktail bar portion of its menu but is still offering crepes, salads, soups and nonalcoholic beverages to go. Co-owner Brie Escalante noted that the restaurant also should have espresso available for takeout soon.
The restrictions on restaurants has had a great impact on Le Happy's flagship location in Portland, which Brie and Juan Escalante also own. The couple is temporarily closing the Portland shop because of lack of demand in that community.
"It sucks," Brie said, frankly. "Basically we had to tell all of our employees to not come to work."
She added that the couple is allowing some employees to be "on call" in case they're needed, but Brie, Juan and a handful of family members are manning the business at the moment.
Besides cuts to staffing, Brie said the restaurant most likely will shorten hours. The idea is to be open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday with some variation on weekends, but it is not set in stone.
"The impact is huge," Brie said. "It's definitely a hardship."
Catering amid crisis
One business used to delivery-based service, Busy Bee Catering in Welches, has weather a hit to revenue from the canceling of events by offering meals by the pound to be delivered as far as Gresham.
Delivery to Welches is free of charge, to Sandy is $10 and to Gresham is $15.
"We're used to delivering, so for us this is easy," Jan said. She also noted that orders should be placed well in advance since she won't start cooking until after an order is placed.
"It'll be fresh and good food as usual," she added. "And this will at least keep me and my people working. There are a lot of supportive people of small businesses, fortunately."
The idea to charge by the pound, Ostrom said "feels only fair" even if it's not the most lucrative for her.
"I think people are really used to going out and might get depressed from not being able to," she added. "This is a way for you to treat yourself, (and) not everyone likes to cook. We'd love to help people in any way we can and stay in business to boot."
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