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Sunny weather helps Portland restaurants amidst stricter risk levels

Warmer weather offers restaurants a way to even the playing field amidst fluctuating risk levels and capacity restrictions.

PORTLAND, Ore. — This week’s sunshine, plus outside restaurant seating, is a math problem that’s easy for cooped up people to solve.

“I'd say it's 100% more likely that we're going to eat outside if it's nice!” said Darius Moore. “We've been indoors for so long.”

Moore didn't hesitate when he looked outside, Monday. He spent the day hiking with a friend, topped off with a trip to some food carts for dinner.

“I think that's what Portland's really about, right? Like, that cart scene, so we're going to do that outside.”

Hearing that brings a sense of relief for many restaurant owners. Just last week amidst rising case numbers, six Oregon counties including Multnomah and Clackamas, regressed back to the High-Risk Level. That means restaurants went from 50% capacity, back down to 25%. For restaurants like Santa Fe Taqueria in NW Portland, that makes expanding with outdoor seating even more important; but the forecast is out of their hands.

“When the weather is nice, your spirits are lifted and when your spirits are lifted, you want to go do things,” said Santa Fe customer, Molly Gill. “That's just how it works.”

“It feels great,” added customer Jason Amos. “It's nice outside, it's nice to be social, it's nice to people watch, it’s nice to get out and feel somewhat normal!”

According to the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, 190 food services locations closed in March 2021. Add to that, 13 temporary closures. CHD Expert, which collects data on the foodservice industry, found that in February there were 78 combined temporary and permanent closures in Oregon and 30 in January. In 2020, 1,185 food service locations closed. 

On a positive note, 770 foodservice operations opened, but that still leaves a net loss of 415 locations.

"The volatility due to government restrictions in Oregon is clobbering the ability of restaurant owners and managers to provide some scheduling stability for our industry employees," said Jason Brandt, President & CEO for the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association. “For our consumers out there, please be patient with your favorite local restaurants and lodging establishments. They will continue to do whatever they can within their control to meet your expectations.”