Although on-site dining has been temporarily banned because of the COVID-19 outbreak, that hasn’t stopped Wallowa County restaurants from feeding their customers.
In order to halt the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Kate Brown on March 16 ordered the ban. But this is limited to customers who prefer to dine in. Most restaurants that have decided to remain open are doing so with limited staffs and serving take-out or drive-through orders. Depending on the restaurant, hours, the method of ordering, the exact service and method of payment may vary.
Eva Barnes, owner of Sugar Time Bakery in Enterprise, had allowed people to come in to place their orders but now restricts that to call-in orders with curbside service. But she hasn’t lost her sense of humor in it all. Barnes’ most recent offering at the bakery is a large sugar cookie decorated with, “Stay Happy, Stay Healthy.”
She said numerous businesses are counting on her establishment for breakfast and lunch. In addition to the hospital and medical professionals, this includes a variety of businesses.
She said they seem to appreciate her efforts.
“It’s almost like it adds a little normalcy to life, they say,” Barnes said.
She noted she’s had to lay off all but her assistant manager, but as soon as circumstances return to normal, she plans to rehire.
“As soon as I can reopen, that’ll definitely be my plan,” she said.
Heavenly’s owner Cindy Ellis said she, too, has had to limit service largely to the take-out window. She hasn’t yet had to lay anyone off, but she’s “working toward that now.” She said she’s likely going to have to cut hours, though she plans to keep everyone working at least part time.
“They’re all going to get something,” she said. “The few employees I have, I need to keep them.”
But the future for the Enterprise restaurant remains in question.
“If I don’t have any customers, I don’t have any money” to pay employees, Ellis said.
Cheyenne Café, in Joseph, also is struggling. A spokesman there, who declined to be identified, said only one person there has been laid off, but that was for a health concern unrelated to coronavirus. He declined further comment.
Teresa Sajonia, owner of Ember’s Brewhouse in Joseph, said her establishment is maintaining normal hours while serving take-out and curbside. Customers can pay by credit or debit card.
“We’re trying to keep everybody fed the best we can,” Sajonia said.
She said she’s had to lay off most of her staff — nine people — and only has two part-timers working during rush periods.
But when the crisis is declared at an end, “Every one of them will be coming back,” she said.
Sajonia said she’s trying to strike a balance between continuing service and halting the possible spread of disease.
“We want to make this as positive as possible,” she said. “We want to protect ourselves, but also keep open and serve the community the best way we know how.”
Heavenly’s Ellis has a similar philosophy.
“I act as though I have coronavirus so I don’t spread it,” she said. “I just keep my distance.”