PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) -- Multnomah County is among the 15 counties in Oregon that are moving back into the “Extreme Risk” category for COVID-19.
Among other restrictions, this new designation means that all indoor dining will shut down beginning on April 30th. Many restaurant and bar owners are having to make difficult staffing decisions now that they won’t be able to serve customers indoors.
However, Ramzy Hatter, the owner of the Riverpig Saloon in northwest Portland is keeping all of his employees on payroll through this third shutdown.
“To lay people off again is just not an option for us so we’re going to keep everyone on payroll and on salary for as long as this new mandate is in place,” Hattar said. He said these restrictions are leaving his employees frustrated and confused. Jonny Wessels is a bartender at Riverpig and said it’s tough having to go through this for the third time.
“We’re going forward, going backwards, going forward and then as soon as we start thinking that we’re making some progress, we’re going back to what got announced today, just patio seating,” Wessels said. Wessels said at this point unemployment isn’t a realistic option because restrictions keep changing.
“We really don’t want to go back to unemployment. We want to work we want to make tips,” Wessels said. Fortunately for Wessels and his teammates, Hattar, has decided to keep every single employee on staff.
“Of course it’s a relief for them” Hattar said. “No one wants to get cut but at the same time, it’s a lot of confusion and frustration too. They understand they’re tips aren’t going to be the same for the next month and we all got to try to pull together and keep the business afloat and get through it all.”
He said it’s his staff that have made it possible for the restaurant to stay open during this time.
“We’ve been able to withstand all of these punches throughout this process and still remain open and doing somewhat well,” Hattar said. And the team and culture they’ve created is a big reason he doesn’t want to let anyone go.
“It’s pretty reassuring,” Wessels said. “I like our tight-knit crew here I mean everyone says it’s like family at their places but we are like family. We celebrate our birthdays together, we laugh, we cry, we share all the emotions together.”
Multnomah County Commissioner, Deborah Kafoury said she’s worried about the surge in cases and hospitalizations and “Simultaneously very worried about our struggling businesses that have already been through so much. We’re imploring Governor Brown and the Oregon Legislature to act quickly to deliver cash grants to businesses affected by this latest uptick in cases. And we want counties, cities and culturally specific organizations to be consulted in order to reach as many businesses as possible, as quickly as possible and as equitably as possible. We’re hopeful we’re going to get through this setback quickly, and we don’t want to lose any livelihoods along the way.”
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