Canby Mayor Brian Hodson is not alone in his frustration about the governor’s latest coronavirus measures targeting restaurants, bars and gyms — at a time when they were just beginning to bounce back from the previous shutdown and without much evidence that they are significant contributors to the spread of the virus.
His vexation is shared by restaurant owners and employees themselves.
“My feeling is restaurants are being targeted and treated unfairly,” said Joan Monen, owner of the Wild Hare Saloon in Canby and Oregon City. “We’re carrying the brunt of this pandemic. Ever since we reopened, restaurants followed the rules.
“Then we get shut down a second time, and the numbers are still increasing. It’s not being spread through the restaurants!”
This view is shared by Matt Morrissey, owner of one of Canby’s newest restaurants, Wayward Sandwiches. Wayward has been anything but lax in his approach to the pandemic — even preemptively shutting down for a week after two of its back-of-house employees tested positive for Covid-19.
As it turned out, it does not appear the employees contracted the virus at work — and there’s no evidence that any other staff or patrons were affected.
“Our industry as a whole has really gone above and beyond to prevent all of this,” he said. “The other restaurant and gym owners I know do everything in our power to make sure we are operating safely and not spreading the virus. And so, I do feel we’re sort of getting scapegoated here.”
Both Monen and Morrissey believe people are safer dining at a restaurant that is following all of the social distancing guidelines than — for example — a gathering hosted by family or friends where such guidelines may not be as high a priority.
“I understand there needs to be an abundance of caution,” Morrissey said. “I just don’t think the case has been made that we’re contributing significantly to the spread.”
Monen said she is grateful for the community’s support through take-out orders, including generous companies like Wilson Construction, but believes the government that is ordering the shutdown should support the industry and its workers — not leave restaurants to fend for themselves.
While both have been able to access some coronavirus economic relief measures such as the Paycheck Protection Program this year, most of those wells dried up long ago.
Morrissey said a large chunk of the funds he received went toward erecting “Fort Wayward,” a covered tent space the restaurant had hoped to use throughout the fall and winter to allow for more socially distanced dining.
“That really makes no sense to me,” Morrissey admitted. “I get that they want to get back on indoor dining, but I don’t understand why we can do take-out but we can’t have people seated outdoors.”
Monen urged community members to be sensible with regard to their plans for Thanksgiving and other social gatherings, and to consider the plight of local restaurants and other businesses who may end up paying the consequences.
“If you truly care about small business and want to see your favorite restaurant reopen, then please don’t host mass gatherings during the holidays,” she pleaded. “I know everyone wants to hang out with their family and friends but now, more than ever, we need people to think of the lives and businesses being impacted by this pandemic.”
Morrissey, whose restaurant just celebrated its one-year anniversary last month, admitted that many hospitality businesses are struggling to stay afloat — and his is no exception.
He also has friends in other parts of the country who have been forced to permanently close their businesses this year.
“We’re a brand-new business; I don’t have a lot of cash sitting around,” he said. “I spent it all just to build this out. Plus, I employ over 20 people, and if at the end of this, I don’t have a business, that’s 20 people that can’t support their families and their households.”