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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.

Author Profile Photo

Jack Hirsh

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



  1. I am so sympathetic to the service industry. Restaurants, dept stores, anything that is in direct association with the public. This industry needs to
    swallow a big pill and shut down. Not only do they jeopardize their own employee’s lives, but the lives of their customers. It’s unfortunate that this is your way of life, but you need to look at the big picture.

    1. “This industry needs to swallow a big pill and shut down”… Why ??? Just what data have you seen that contact traces a single massive outbreak to any Restaurant- Department Store- or Public Gathering point ??? The OHA provides the names and places of large scale outbreaks in their “weekly report”. The list is void of any restaurant- bar- brew pub ! However- it is chalk full of LTC centers- Hospitals- Nursing homes (eleven pages worth)- places we would expect state of the art sanitary practices and hard core rules to prevent exposure… Places where Kate Brown should have protected first ! As for grocery stores… a couple of Fred Myers- A Bi-Mart- the rare Winco… clearly the exception- rather than the rule ! So how do you explain all the smoke and mirrors here being played upon the public- cause the data sure proves otherwise !

    2. Show me the data that says restaurants are big source of outbreaks??… That’s right, there is none. You need to learn where the outbreaks are really from before you tell people having no money for the holidays to “swallow a big pill”.

    3. “I am so sympathetic to the service industry.” Just because you said it doesn’t mean you mean it.

      Obviously you are not or you wouldn’t tell them to SWALLOW a big pill and shut down. Easy for you to say non small business owner. if you were SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO sympathetic to the service industry you would advocate for them to be treated fairly. They are getting robbed by Kate. Plain and simple

      BTW what’s your ” Big picture?” Give up and lose your way of life and throw everything you have worked for away? You are warped

      Despite what people believe about Covid, EVERY single expert and all the data supports restaurants and bars to stay open. They are not even close to being a high risk. I would argue that keeping bars and restaurants open right now HELPS stop the spread. They are clean and safe and it gives people something saver to do. The data tells us that home gatherings and big manufacturing plants are the super spreaders. If people don’t have anywhere to go they are going to visit friends, especially during the holidays. People are depressed and lonely.

      1. Would you rather be lonely and depressed or dead? Either way I hope you get your wish. I will still do my part to keep you and the selfish others that think like you safe. It’s unfortunate you can’t show the same respect.

  2. So full price for a meal I would have to eat outside like a picnic? However if they tried to close up Walmart and box stores that are bigger problems with spreading Covid people would riot. Don’t ever get in the way of “Mericans” and their cheap crap.

  3. Restaurant owners, just open up and see the huge support you’ll get. There are a bunch of us ready to swarm your restaurant and leave large tips. No government officials Allowed in your building without a search warrant. Let’s band together, they can’t put us all in jail. If you are the ones at risk or don’t wish to participate in free enterprise, you have the choice to stay home. Simple. We will respect that choice but I’ll bet some are going to whine and cry about ours. Any bets? Oh I see one coming now and the tears are already flowing down their cheeks.

    1. So does the “T” stand for tool? Are you going to pay for the multi lawsuits that business owners would get because some morons took you’re advice? You first!

      1. There they are, I told ya they were coming. Is there an emoji for “tissue “ some one needs one. I kinda figured you as “ pro choice” . Can I inform all your liberal buddy’s you’re not?

      2. So how many nursing homes- Long Term Care Centers- Senior Memory Care centers…. have been sued ??? According to you- There are eleven pages on the OHA website that should be up for legal litigation- lawsuits- some slip-and-fall lawyer to make a buck… so where are they ? Here’s the list- go gettum tiger ! See pages 22-33 !!!

    2. Yeah. They get their liquor license pulled and we’ll see how many people swarm their restaurant. Enjoy your ice tea and milk.

      Why is every business in town a brewpub? America used to make things, now we just feed each other and make lattes for each other and get each other beers.

  4. I must be one of the chosen. I have been careful but, I do whatever I want and haven’t had as much as a sniffle. I hear tales of people my age who have had it (60’s) who are counting it as a mild flu; 5 day recovery. I have no huge opinion but, I plan to go on living. It seems like it is overly exaggerated. Most people that I encounter are very over it, as far as letting it control their lives with fear. I haven’t seen negative results from their stand.

    1. My brother-in-law had it this summer. He lost his sense of taste and smell, and it still hasn’t come back. He lived, but he may never taste pizza again. He can’t tell if milk is bad or not. Oh, is that a gas leak? But he lived, so no worries, right? Don’t let something like losing your ability to taste a strawberry ever again stop you from ripping off your mask and proudly stomping around Walmart, sticking it to the man.

  5. It’s not restaurants that are the problem. Its huge events, church services, wedding receptions, Halloween parties, etc. Leave the restaurant industry alone.

  6. Tell the Muslims not to go to prayer if you think houses of worship are a problem. I dare you, heck I’d even pay to see that.

    Eat overpriced food in a parking lot, in the winter. No thanks.

  7. In some parts of Eastern Europe it is common to eat outside in winter. They normally have those propane powered heaters spread around and offer you blankets when you sit down at a table. It’s honestly pretty nice when done right.

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