Slowly but surely, restaurants in Portland are beginning to open back up to the public.
While most restaurants in the area have offered curbside service throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and fast food chains have kept their drive-thru windows open during the crisis, Gov. Bill Lee last week gave the go-ahead for restaurants to reopen dining, provided they adhered to social distancing rules and had only a 50% occupancy rate.
The first restaurant to reopen in Portland was 109 Family Restaurant, which reopened on April 28. Top of the Ridge, which is at Bottom View Farms, opened its doors back up on May 1.
Brandon West, who owns the 109 Family Restaurant as well as the Barbecue Pit, said the move to reopen went about as well as could be expected.
“The fact that we’re 50% occupancy, we did about 50% of our normal business would have been. I have to take that as a win. It was slow, but steady. It was not busy, busy, but just a trickle of people coming in, and positive feedback,” West said.
The reopen also coincided with a new menu that 109 Family Restaurant launched.
“We launched a new menu Tuesday, so it kind of worked out with good timing for us. Everybody was appreciative and grateful that we were opening back up. That way, they had a place where they could go sit down and eat and not have to stay in their own home, which they’ve had to do for a long time now,” West said.
There are other things that are readily noticeable when dining in at 109 other than every other table being off limits to patrons. Only plastic to-go silverware is used. Also, there are no salt and pepper shakers, nor ketchup on the tables either. And the salad bar, which has been a 109 staple — closed for now due to health regulations regarding Covid-19.
“We are following all the guidelines, masks, gloves. There’s nothing on the tables. We’re using to-go silverware for every order, even for the orders for here. Everything is getting sanitized from every time it’s touched. It’s cleaned and all rules are being followed,” West said. “There are no common areas. That means no salad bar, no ice cream machine. You can’t have things on the table, because that’s considered a common area — each table is. So you can’t have anything on the table like salt, pepper, ketchup, sauces or anything like that.”
West admits the new setup is not ideal, but it is something that has to be done in order to stay open.
“It’s a nightmare, but it’s the new normal, but it’s just how we have to adapt in order to survive. It’s just part of it,” West said.
West said that he and his staff are doing everything they can to make sure that patrons feel and stay safe while dining in his restaurant. And for those who may still be skittish about getting out in public again, the restaurant will continue to offer curbside takeout service too.
“We’re just going to continue following all the guidelines, and staying safe, and keeping people safe and allow them to come get a good meal,” West said. “We are encouraging takeout. If people don’t feel comfortable coming in, we’ll take it to them outside to their car. We’ll definitely continue takeout for anybody that doesn’t feel comfortable coming out in public. That way, they can still enjoy the food and not have to come in and risk associating with people.”
The hours of operation have also been altered at 109. The restaurant will be closed on Sundays until church services are allowed to restart. The restaurant is open from 6 a.m. till 3 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, and is open from 6 a.m. till 8 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday.
As for his other restaurant, the Barbecue Pit, it will remain drive-thru only for the foreseeable future, because of the logistics of the dining area.
“It’s just staying drive-thru only,” he said. “My dining room is so small there, I’m just going to wait until restaurants go to 100% occupancy, because you really can’t social distance in that dining room, because it’s so small. So I’m just going to keep it closed and allow the drive-thru to be open.”