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Omicron surge leading to another wave of closures for Oregon businesses

Restaurants and venues are responding to COVID cases among their staff. The current shutdowns range from days to weeks, sometimes without exact reopening timelines.
Credit: Maggie Vespa, KGW
Mother's Bistro & Bar

PORTLAND, Ore. — The omicron surge has led to a rolling wave of restaurant and venue closures in the Portland area as individual businesses respond to COVID cases among their staff and weight their options.

Unlike the state-mandated closures in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the current shutdowns are driven by individual businesses and tend to range from days to weeks, sometimes without exact timelines for reopening.

North Portland jazz club The 1905 had to close down last week due to COVID cases among its staff. The closure will last for “about a week,” according to a message on the club’s website.

Kevin Cook, a.k.a. Poison Waters announced in an Instagram post on Tuesday that the iconic Darcelle XV nightclub in downtown Portland would need to temporarily close due to the omicron surge and would reopen later in the month.

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Some restaurants that announced closures in the past couple weeks have already reopened, including North Portland Thai restaurant Eem and Northeast Portland sandwich shop Lottie & Zula’s.

Italian restaurant dicarli in Beaverton reopened Wednesday after a multi-day closure due to COVID exposure. Owner Jana Decarli said in an email that the restaurant didn’t lose much of its stocked product because the closure decision came before staff got ready for the following week.

Other restaurants haven’t been as lucky. Even a short-term closure can be a painful and costly decision, in part because most restaurants will have to ditch their existing food supplies and fully restock when the time comes to reopen.

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“After a day or two, it’s already too late,” said Lisa Schroeder, owner and executive chef at Mother’s Bistro and Bar. “You can shutter for a day or two, but anything over that, your product is not fresh.”

Mother’s announced on social media last week that it would temporarily close and posted a Facebook message on Tuesday announcing that it had donated much of its current product inventory to the Blanchet House. Schroeder said she’s planning to stay closed until Feb. 3.

It’s a big decision to temporarily close @mothersbistro. Besides everyone losing income, we lose so much product. We...

Posted by Mother's Bistro & Bar on Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Schroeder said she was glad to get the food to a place where it will be put to use, but she’s not looking forward to the cost of restocking – especially given that inflation has pushed up many food prices in recent weeks. The cost-per-pound for some meats has nearly doubled, she said, and every other item has seen some degree of price increase.

Schroeder said she made the decision to close down after three of her staff tested positive for COVID-19. Mother’s employs a staff of around 50 to 60 people, she said, but given the contagiousness of the omicron variant, three staff cases in a short time was enough to signal that the writing was on the wall.

“I just couldn’t take a chance that more of my staff would infect others or infect each other,” she said.