Local restaurants are hunkering down for another temporary COVID ban on dine-in service after Curry County was moved to the “extreme risk” category by the Oregon Health Authority last Friday.
After two weeks, the county’s risk level will be re-assessed, and the ban could be lifted, but only if the case total during the two-week period is less than 45, and test positivity rates stay below 10%. The state will reassign risk levels April 6 to take affect April 9. Until then, restaurant owners like Flo Lira, who runs La Flor De Mexico in Brookings, will be restricted to take-out only.
“The people that come in and dine-in, they don’t really respond the same way when it comes to to-go,” Flo Lira said through her son and translator, Carlos Lira. “They’d rather just dine-in, and when they see that there’s no dine-in, they just walk away.”
Carlos Lira works as a server at his mom’s restaurant. He said restaurants with drive-thrus fare better during the dine-in closures because they are quicker and more convenient than La Flor De Mexico, which has focused on serving authentic Mexican cuisine since Flo Lira opened it in 2000.
“We’ve been told that our food isn’t as to-go friendly because it's in containers and not as easily accessible as a brown paper bag,” said Carlos Lira.
Kylie Krebs, owner of Black Trumpet Bistro, echoed Lira’s concerns about take-out. She said while the volume of to-go lunch orders during the bans has remained steady, fine-dining and take-out just don’t mix.
“Who really wants to have a cioppino to-go, or a filet mignon to-go? Not many people,” said Krebs.
Despite following all of the COVID guidelines, including social distancing, increased sanitation and enforcing mask requirements for staff and customers, Black Trumpet Bistro was forced to temporarily stop dine-in service, yet other businesses were able carry-on. To Krebs, this seems inequitable.
“It makes no sense to me,” said Krebs. “Someone can go into a grocery store, and touch all the groceries, and put their hands on all the carts, and then walk out and call it a day, but yet you can’t go to a restaurant that is strict about their rules and regulations.” she added.
Krebs said the restaurant’s income was cut in half last year by COVID. Additionally, she has been forced to cut her employees hours by about half during these bans, which is especially hard because they are like family to her. However, she said she will continue to support her restaurant family in other ways.
“When we do close, instead of wasting the food products, we give it to our crew members so they at least have dinner for the week... As a group, as a family, if someone is hurting we have all chipped in and helped them for that month, which seems to be working,” said Krebs.
While Black Trumpet might be hanging on by a strand of spaghetti right now, Krebs said she is optimistic her restaurant will overcome the virus.
“My husband and I have been in this business for 30 years, we’re stubborn, we’re determined,” said Krebs. “We have a crew that is beyond fantastic...so I do believe Black Trumpet will make it.”
Black Trumpet Bistro is located at 625 Chetco Ave. in Brookings. La Flor De Mexico is located at 541 Chetco Ave. in Brookings.