When Deschutes Brewery gets the OK to reopen in post-pandemic Bend, customers will see a different menu, no waiting inside for a table, and they might need to have their temperatures taken before they can enter.
Down the street, when customers go to Bond Street Barber, there will be no hot shaves, no more free beer, water or magazines and fewer barbers.
Workers wanting to socialize in a co-working space like The Haven, will find new rules in place, all designed to preserve social distancing.
As businesses contemplate what their operations will look like when they reopen, after weeks of being shuttered, as they waited for the virus to be contained and scientists searched for a vaccine, they realize that sacrifices will have to be made. They’ll have fewer customers.
But fewer is better than none.
“What does it look like? “ asked Tim Duy, professor of practice in economics at the University of Oregon. “Maybe restaurants will have a machine that spits out clean forks and knives that’s not been touched. Maybe instead of a server, you’ll pick up your own food order. Maybe we’ll all be wearing masks.
“We’ll be devising mechanisms that minimize risk. There will be lower margins and things will be more expensive.”
Welcome to the world post COVID-19, but pre-vaccine. Life under COVID-19 has changed business and commerce, social systems and consumer behaviors as the threat of a resurgence could send us back to our homes.
Re-entry to the business world will be in phases under a plan from Gov. Kate Brown. Large venues would remain closed during the first phase under the Deschutes County and Oregon plan. Childcare is a key component outlined in the county draft plan.
The county draft plan has been sent to health officials and will be discussed by the commissioners on Monday.
Baker County, a community that has not had any cases of COVID-19, has submitted its plan for reopening businesses to the governor’s office.
In Baker City, a community of 10,000 people, the plan includes asking customers to provide their name and number as they enter a store to help with contact tracing if someone should come down with the virus, said Fred Warner, Baker City manager.
On Friday, of the 2,579 people testing positive for COVID-19, 76 were in Deschutes County. The county ranked six in terms of the number of positive COVID-19 tests, behind Linn County, which had 87 cases and seven people have died as of Friday, according to data provided by the Central Oregon public health departments.
“This is a serious disease for which we have no vaccine or proven treatments,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, St. Charles chief physician executive in an email statement.
In order to open up parts of a community’s economic and social life, communities have to have a low and steady number of cases, and can only open up 50% of their business, said Deschutes County Commissioner Patti Adair.
“While it’s true our number of positive cases is low, we attribute that in large part to our community’s tremendous efforts to stay home and adhere to social distancing guidelines,” Absalon said. “Our own data modeling tells us that if we were to let up on these measures, we would likely see another surge within two weeks. So, we will need to be very cautious and thoughtful about how we do this and be prepared to monitor and adjust our operations as needed.”
Businesses understand that sacrifices will need to be made because reopening the state and its individual communities is not an overnight adventure.
No business as usual
From the boardroom to the brewhouse, businesses and government officials will arm themselves with data trends, accounting of supplies of personal protective equipment, testing capacity and contact tracing.
Troy Batson, owner of Bond Street Barber Shop in Bend said he’s kicked around a couple of ideas. What he knows is that when he’s allowed to open his business model won’t look anything like it did just a few months ago.
“It won’t be business as usual, that’s for sure,” Batson said. “We’ll have to reposition the chairs, eliminate one or two to maintain social distance.”
The barber chairs will be sterilized in between customers, he said. Everyone will be wearing a mask.
These are not easy changes to make, but businesses have been thinking about them during the long weeks of closure. Over the past month, the Economic Development for Central Oregon has talked to 200 businesses about what reopening will look like for them.
“Much time and effort in our region has been put into gathering and sharing the perspectives of businesses regarding reopening in order to inform public decision makers,” said Roger Lee, Economic Development for Central Oregon CEO in an email. “We’re hopeful that this input will lead to a more predictable and smoother reopening process than happened with the closure.”
At Deschutes Brewery, opening either the Portland or Bend pub depends on the data and the approval of the governor. A key element for opening, said Michael LaLonde, Deschutes Brewery CEO, is the safety of the workers and the customers.
No parties larger than 10 people at first. Staff will wear masks. Hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout the restaurant. Wait stands will have hand washing capabilities. And people most likely won’t be able to wait for tables inside the restaurant.
“When we’re taking an order, that will be difficult,” LaLonde said. “It will be something we have to test. Gloves can be beneficial, but there’s a false sense of security with them.
“I am concerned that they won’t feel comfortable.”
Carrie Douglass, owner of The Haven co-working space in Bend, echoed LaLonde’s fears that customers will stay away.
“We’re taking all the possible measures to protect our members,” Douglass said. “A big reason people come to a co-working space is to be around other people, even if not interacting with them.
“People are thirsting for interaction, even though they need to take precautions.”