Canby Mayor Brian Hodson was sad — not angry, he said Saturday afternoon, standing on the corner of Northwest 2nd and Holly Street in downtown Canby.
“I’m sad because in my thriving downtown on a Saturday before Christmas … There’s hardly a car,” Hodson said in a live Facebook video posted to his political page, addressing the majority of his comments to Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon State Legislature — which is set to meet in a special session Tuesday to discuss coronavirus relief. “Down this street, we have a number of retailers that are barely surviving.”
To give one example, Hodson said sales at the Backstop Bar & Grill, normally one of downtown Canby’s busiest restaurants and watering holes, were down around 90% this Black Friday compared to 2019.
“They can’t survive,” Hodson said in the video, referring to small businesses owners in Canby. “Please give them a fighting chance.”
Hodson spoke at length about the impact the prolonged closures have had on local businesses this year, including gyms and bars — which are currently prohibited from indoor service — and restaurants, which can offer only take-out and outdoor dining — under strict limitations.
He also shared about his own background, as a business owner, employee in the retail and food service sectors and — currently — as a director of a long-term care neighborhood.
He said he believes business owners will follow whatever guidelines are needed — but too many simply aren’t being given a chance right now.
“I’m not asking for total carte blanche,” he said. “But we’ve got to figure out a path for everyone to be open. I know the restaurants and bars and the businesses that aren’t even open right now will work to be as safe as they can be.”
While some residents have called on Hodson to follow the lead of Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam — who announced this week his intentions to allow the city’s restaurants, bars and gyms to open Jan. 1 under the governor’s guidelines for “high risk” counties rather than Clackamas’ current rating of “extreme risk” — the Canby mayor would not go that far.
He did, however, demand action on the part of state officials to allow such an approach.
“I’m asking that we give our businesses an opportunity on Jan. 1 to open up in some capacity,” Hodson said. “To start the year 2021 with some optimism and hope to set their destiny, to be successful, to work hard and create a living for their families, their employees.
“We want to lay out the rules of the game. Quit changing the rules of the game. Quit closing us down. And let us, the business owners, have a chance to operate successfully — give us that opportunity.”
Hodson also expressed skepticism that restaurants, bars, gyms, retail stores and other businesses — which are required to enforce strict health guidelines to continue operating — have been a significant source of spread for Covid-19, compared to private social gatherings, where such guidelines are less likely to be observed.
He suggested that closing businesses like restaurants and bars, where friends and families might gather under the comparatively safer umbrella of coronavirus and other cleanliness guidelines, might actually increase the spread of Covid-19 — by leading to more in-home get-togethers.
“I firmly believe we’re seeing more groupings getting together because there’s no place to go,” Hodson said. “It’s like a boiling kettle. If you have no way to release that steam and that pressure that’s being built up, something’s going to happen.”
Asked during the video what residents can do to help, Hodson encouraged his citizens to support local businesses any way they can — through online shopping, to-go orders, gift cards, etc. — write to their elected representatives in Salem, and follow the health guidelines of wearing masks and staying home when sick.
“We are all in this together,” Hodson said. “It starts here in our community.”