Some Clackamas County Restaurants Reopen for Indoor Dining

They’re called “open restaurants” — establishments that have reopened for limited, indoor dining in defiance of the governor’s continuing coronavirus orders — which currently allow only to-go orders and outdoor seating for most bars and eateries.

Because of the risk of fines and other penalties — which Governor Kate Brown has vowed to impose — the existence of such businesses is a closely guarded secret, usually shared through whispered word of mouth.

But for the most part, these are not wild-eyed radicals, who thumb their noses at Brown and public health guidelines and declare Covid-19 a hoax. They are independent, community-minded small-business owners and employers, who are just trying to survive.

Such is the case for three Clackamas County restaurants — the Carver Hangar, Eagle Creek Saloon and Redland Cafe — who confirmed their early reopening this week on Facebook, and even allowed a Fox 12 camera crew to come have a look.

“We know OSHA will come and fine us and move to close our doors,” Bryan Mitchell, owner of all three restaurants, said in the Facebook post. “But we can no longer stand by and watch our employees that have become our extended family suffer.”

Mitchell, who became emotional while talking to Fox 12, said he has 85 employees between the three locations and feels responsible for offering them the opportunity to provide for their families.

All three restaurants and bars are located in more rural parts of Clackamas County, where other job opportunities may be limited — especially in the current economic climate.

The three establishments — like most of the “open restaurants,” according to anecdotal reports — are following the strict protocols of the “high risk” tier of the governor’s coronavirus matrix.

“High risk” counties require restaurants to practice rigorous disinfection techniques, social distancing and mask wearing and to reduce occupancy to only 25% — but they are allowed to be open for indoor service, unlike Clackamas County’s actual status of “extreme risk.”

“I understand some of you will not agree with our decision, but I am not asking you to come in,” Mitchell said. “So you won’t have to contact OSHA; they will know after watching channel 12 news at 5 o’clock Saturday. I would like to thank everyone for eating at our restaurants over the years.”

In a statement last week, Brown showed little patience for businesses who feel they have no choice but to defy her guidelines to survive in the expected lean months ahead.

“If businesses reopen too early and instead create new spikes in Covid-19 cases, the actions of a few business owners could set entire communities back and keep them in the extreme risk category for even longer,” Brown warned.

But on Facebook, hundreds of residents hailed Mitchell’s decision and promised to support his restaurants and employees.

“The best news that I have heard for the last 10 months,” one man said. “As long as Kate Brown receives a paycheck, so should all restaurant workers and owners. There is not a good reason to curtail individual liberties merely because someone person thinks that it is required.”

“We went to Eagle Creek last night for a sit-down steak dinner with an extra helping of freedom,” agreed another commenter on The Canby Current Facebook page. “Great place, food and especially servers.”

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