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C.O. restaurants await new guidelines, prepare for winter outdoor dining

Some turn to heaters and fire pits, guidance on enclosed tents not set yet

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) --The statewide two-week freeze officially comes to an end on Wednesday, meaning restaurants in Deschutes County can open up for outdoor dining on Thursday.

But many Central Oregon restaurateurs are asking: What's next, with winter right around the corner?

Pamela Morgan’s McKay Cottage in Bend has endured a rough stretch, going with takeout only the last week and a half.

"It's absolutely not worth it -- we are not even breaking even,” Morgan told NewsChannel 21 on Monday. “But we are keeping some people employed."

Morgan is eagerly awaiting the freeze to end Wednesday, so she can reopen McKay Cottage's patio seating.

"We're doing about 15-20 percent at the most of our normal, and maybe only 10 percent of revenue on weekdays," she said.

When it's nice enough out, Morgan plans to offer her guests the opportunity to sit by several fire pits and enjoy their meal.

But things won’t be so easy when a winter storm comes through.

"It's hard to know, because if the weather really turns on us,” she said, “it's going to be hard to plan, staff for it."

That's something Boneyard Beer general manager Jonathan Gilliam isn't looking forward to, either, being almost completely weather-dependent during a Central Oregon winter.

"We’ll we have some tools and snow blowers and shovels and everything else like that," he said.

Gilliam said after the past wild year, his staff is pretty much used to it.

"Anything could happen at any morning and you could get a text,” he said. “Just prepare what's evolving."

When poor weather strikes, one advantage many restaurants may be without: outdoor tents. Oregon Health Authority officials noted last week that an outdoor tent with several enclosed sides could be just as risky as indoor dining, in terms of limiting circulation and spreading the virus.

"We haven't gotten any clear direction," Morgan said of official guidance from the OHA on the use of an enclosed tent.

She still has the tent set up, just in case it's allowed.

"We're obviously going to do exactly what we're directed to do and supposed to do," Morgan said.

Morgan Emerson, a spokesperson for Deschutes County Health Services, told NewsChannel 21 by email, “The definition of outdoor spaces before the changes in metrics and new framework for opening ... was: "Outdoor space" means an open-air space which may have a temporary or fixed cover, such as an awning or roof, so long as the space has at least 75% of the square footage of its sides open for airflow.”

She added that new guidance is set to be released this week.

For now, a good weather forecast is just what Morgan needs.

"We have a good weekend coming up, where it's going to be in the high 40s and hopefully if it's not windy," she said.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.


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