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HARBOR — Fat Irish Kitchen and Pub server Josh Hart waved to customers seated at tables or waiting for a table as if he was seeing old friends.

“Hi, how are you doing,” Hart said Friday through his black and white checkerboard print mask. “We’ve missed you.”

Dine-in eating was stopped by Gov. Kate Brown on March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing restaurants to offer take-out, curbside pickup or temporarily close. Much of the state’s economy was stalled when Brown issued stay-home orders on March 23.

Curry County was one of 31 counties in the state to receive approval from the Governor’s Office and Oregon Health Authority to enter Phase I on Friday, May 15. Many restaurants opened May 15 and reported being busy.

Jay and Mary Trost, owners of the popular Harbor eatery, greeted customers and worked with staff to ensure Phase I reopening guidelines were being followed — six feet of social distancing; a limit of groups to parties of 10 or fewer; food and drink consumption must end by 10 p.m.; and workers are required to wear masks.

“It’s a good day, a good day,” Jay said. “To see everybody in, to see their smiles. We’ve been able to through the take-out process to maintain a connection with a lot of people. But to see them come in today, it’s overwhelming.”

Under the first of three phases, restrictions were eased on restaurants and bars for sit-down service; and barbers, salons and massage businesses. All of the businesses opening to Phase I have to deal with the guidelines, some have more than others. 

Staff in all areas of the restaurant are required to wear masks and in some instances gloves. Menus have to be disposable or wipeable. Condiments have to be single-package or if in larger containers brought to the table upon request. Placemats and eating utensils are placed as the people are being seated.

It is a lot to keep track of but important to keep everyone safe, Jay said.

“Everybody is trying to learn and figure this out,” Jay said. “We are working on so many different things right now. Making sure that people are safe and they can still have an enjoyable time is going to be our number one priority.”

Fat Irish has seating inside and patio seating outside and nearly every seat, minus the 18 seats around the bar, were filled. Guidelines don’t allow for seating at the bar yet.

“After a couple of months of sequestering, this is a treat,” said Claudi Crosetti of Gold Beach, who was seated on the patio. “We are comfortable dining outside and Fat Irish seems to be really following the rules which I find very respectful and smart. I appreciate that.”

Jay estimated due to the guidelines his capacity was now a third of what it was before COVID-19, and that’s on a sunny day when people can sit on the patio.

Crosetti added sitting outside was key for her because she was not ready to eat inside a restaurant just yet. 

“I do like this option, especially on a nice day,” Crosetti said. “Everybody really misses dining out. It’s a biggie.”

Phase I will be in place for at least 21 days. Health officials are monitoring each county for spikes in COVID-19 cases and will decide when counties can enter the next phase. Curry County has had four confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths. All are considered recovered.

Fat Irish Kitchen and Pub is open seven days a week at 16403 Lower Harbor Rd. in Harbor. For more information, call 541-254-3292 or go online to http://fatirishpub.com/.

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