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Restaurants in Albany navigate differing rules amid new risk levels

This new system places counties within four risk levels: lower, moderate, high and extreme.

Posted: Dec 5, 2020 8:27 PM
Updated: Dec 6, 2020 10:19 AM

ALBANY, Ore. --- Nine months into this pandemic, Oregonians are having to adjust to a new set of rules based on risk levels depending on the county they're in. 

For businesses in the city of Albany the rules differ, as some fall under Benton County and others under Linn County.

The Oregon Health Authority revealed new guidance for businesses to follow starting on Thursday which was signed in an executive order by Governor Kate Brown.

This new system places counties within four risk levels: lower, moderate, high and extreme.

RELATED: OHA UNVEILS GUIDANCE FOR BUSINESSES AS COVID-19 'RISK LEVEL' EXECUTIVE ORDER ISSUED

With the Willamette River in between the two counties, the guidance differs across the city of Albany.

The operations manager of Brick and Mortar Cafe in Linn County said 2020 was off to a great start until the pandemic came crashing down.

“We had to shut down both of our restaurants, and then we reopened again when we were able to,” Brent Montes said. “Now shutting down again after purchasing all of the partitions so that guests could be safe in the restaurant and training our team...getting shut down is tough. It's really tough.”

His restaurant is just a mile away from those that are within the Benton County lines. That means his restaurant falls under the "extreme risk" level and even some of those just five minutes away fall under the "high risk" level. 

So Montes' restaurant only has the option to remain open for takeout orders and outdoor seating during this time.

“I don't understand how they are making the stipulations for certain counties,” Montes said. “We have more area to spread out, but we are still under the same restrictions. It's challenging for me to understand that and to keep the business going.”

He said purchasing to-go boxes, bags and other items to keep everyone safe can add up for a business. Currently, the restaurant is open Friday through Sunday, and they've had to make some tough decisions with staffing.

On the other side of the Willamette River is Mexico Lindo Restaurant and Lounge in Benton County. 

“We need to follow the rules the way they are supposed to be followed and try to keep our capacity to a certain amount that we can have in,” Cesar Soltero with Mexico Lindo said.

Soltero said the situation has been challenging. However, while he is grateful to have the ability for both indoor and outdoor seating, the restaurant is still limited to 25 percent capacity. That's because they're under the "high risk" level.

However Montes fears the new restrictions will deter business away from his restaurant more than the pandemic already has. Which seems unfair to him, along with many others, given he's within just five minutes of other restaurants who are able to offer more services. 

“The majority of small businesses probably won't be able to make it through this," Montes said. "It’s very unfortunate, but that’s why we’re scratching at everything we can get and trying to drive those sales. It's tough."

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