Wednesday, June 30, proved to be a popular day at Cooper Mountain Ale Works Public House.
Wednesday was the day that Gov. Kate Brown ended Oregon's mask mandate and most COVID-19 restrictions, a move that also allowed restaurants and bars to return to full capacity, including at Cooper Mountain Ale Works in downtown Tigard.
The change was not lost on the lunchtime crowd or the restaurant staff. And it wasn't a bad turnout for a Wednesday, according to Chris Sjolin, a Cooper Mountain Ale Works partner and partial owner.
He said his staff, most of whom have been vaccinated, have been wearing masks for a long time and he was glad to see the mandate done away with, saying that the masks were hot and uncomfortable.
"We're walking 30-plus-thousand steps a day to serve food in here and it's perfectly fine for somebody to sit at a table with no mask on — whether they're vaccinated or not — and it just didn't make any sense for me to continue to say (to staff), 'Nope, you've still got to wear a mask,'" Sjolin said.
At the same time, returning his restaurant to its full capacity was never a big issue.
With a capacity for 240 customers, Sjolin said his restaurant doesn't even have 120 seats inside or outside that would have allowed them to reach that number.
For more than five weeks, Sjolin said Cooper Mountain Ale Works adhered to statewide COVID-19 protocols allowing those who showed a vaccination card could remain unmasked the entire time they were inside the restaurant instead of only when they were eating. In fact, Sjolin had a special hand stamp for those who might have to leave the restaurant to prove they'd already shown their vaccination card when they reentered.
Earlier this year, Sjolin took delight at producing a limited-edition brew called "Kate's Nutty Shutdown Brown" ale, a swipe at the governor and the Oregon Health Authority because he didn't believe they had laid out a clear reason for closing restaurants and bars to indoor seating in the first place.
He ended up selling about 60 percent of what they brewed to other bars and restaurants who in turn gave a portion of those proceeds to charity. In turn, Sjolin said that Cooper Mountain Ale Works donated $1,800 from the sale of the Kate's Nutty Shutdown Brown ale to charity.
Reflecting back to June of 2020, Sjolin said he doesn't regret helping open the restaurant just three months into the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Everyone was so grateful from the beginning that we've gotten used to having that feeling" from the customers, he said.
Among those supporters Wednesday were Ann and Sarah Bergstrom, who were outside eating on the patio.
Ann Bergstrom, Sarah's mother, said she's been a longtime patron of the restaurant, going back to the time it was Max's Fanno Creek Brew Pub. Now, she said she's supporting the new owners during the pandemic, dropping in to grab pizza at least once a month with her husband (and usually the family dog) "just to support them."
"What a struggle to start a business during the pandemic, right?" said Ann Bergstrom, a Bull Mountain resident.
She said that even during the height of the pandemic, the Main Street eatery had proved been a popular place, often with waiting lines to get inside.
Sarah Bergstrom a Southridge High School graduate who now lives in Seattle, said she was glad to not be wearing a mask.
"It's really great," she said. "It's really nice to walk around and not have something over our face, and being vaccinated, we feel safe and it's been great to walk into a place and see peoples' smiles."
Wednesday also marked a milestone for Cooper Mountain Ale Works staffer Chris Hreha who was celebrating two weeks to the day that he had been fully vaccinated. He said he was happy to be back and not having to wear a mask.
"It's been incredible. I honestly feel like you can interact. I get to interact with guests more, you know, with them actually being able to see my face and see my interactions," said Hreha, who grew up in Tigard and is now a Beaverton resident. "It allows me to give better service I personally feel. (And) I can breathe fresh air now so that's always a plus."
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