PORTLAND, Ore. — The longer the COVID-19 crisis continues, the smaller Portland's restaurant scene becomes. Two more notable restaurants recently said they are closing permanently.
Mi Mero Mole is winding down, after nine years in Chinatown. This Friday will be its last day.
“The pandemic is hard enough on restaurants, nobody wants to be sitting indoors right now. It took forever for them to open up at all,” said owner Nick Zukin.
His is one of many popular places that just can't afford to keep paying employees for their hard work. Business is that bad, thanks to coronavirus restrictions.
“You know I put 15 years into this and I started with basically nothing, built up what I was hoping was going to be my retirement, and now it’s all gone. So I am approaching 50 years old, I don’t know if I want to start over.”
Zukin is disappointed for himself. But he's equally disappointed for the employees that made Mi Mero Mole shine. The restaurant owner set up a GoFundMe account to help employees, and another to help a longtime worker whose husband just died.
“Many of them are undocumented immigrants frankly and they’re not eligible for unemployment, and so we’ve paid them as much as we could but it’s going to be tough for a lot of them,” said Zukin.
These are trying times. Bluehour Restaurant in the Pearl District is another example of that. The upscale restaurant is one of the success stories of Bruce Carey.
The Portland restaurateur posted on his Facebook page, saying, “With great sadness and regret, I must announce today that Bluehour will not reopen… I remain grateful that Bluehour has been able to play such a prominent role in the high-spirited Portland restaurant scene for the past 20 years."
At Mi Mero Mole, Zukin suggested something big needs to be done, to save independent restaurants.
“I think nationally they’re going to have to do some sort of hospitality industry bailout. The other option is that the small businesses die and in three to five years and it’s all chains," he said.