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‘It’s very scary’: Pandemic may cost Silver Lake its only eatery (again)

Maria Leckenby worked there in high school, bought closed café years later

SILVER LAKE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- In the small Lake County town of Silver Lake, owner Maria Leckenby runs the Silver Lake Café And Bar.

And while about five miles from the town's main road is the famous "Cowboy Dinner Tree," that spot tree requires reservations and is only open for dinner to a limited (but hefty) menu.

Meaning Maria's restaurant is the only place in town for a convenient breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Maria actually worked at the restaurant when she was in high school, left the small town (of less than 100 people) to become a paralegal. That took took her as far as Southern California, only to end up being convinced by her friends after she retired to buy the restaurant.

At the time, she said, the café had been closed for about seven years, and she wasn’t getting much support for pursuing that dream.

“I'd get comments like, 'Oh, you’re going to close in 6 months.' 'Oh, you’re going to close, and I give it one month.'”

Fortunately, for Maria, those naysayers were wrong, as four years later she has kept the doors open, which has had locals excited, as she is the only full-service restaurant in the small town.

“Because there’s no other place, they’re like, 'It’s nice to go get a burger,' or ''It’s nice to go get some good fish, or meatloaf,' or whatever it is.”

Now, her restaurant and all of those happy customers face a grim reality, as the second round of pandemic-related closures have Maria worried she won’t be able to keep her doors open.

“It’s hard," she said, tearfully. "It’s very scary, you know? I put so much into this place, and for my employees especially, you know? I had a girl, when she came here, she was homeless.”

She said she hasn’t received any aid from the government to stay afloat.

"Somebody told me about a program yesterday, and I called and left a message," Maria said. "But then, they said, 'You know, we don’t know -- maybe all of the money is spoken for.'"

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Blake Allen

Blake Allen is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.

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