Some of your favorite St. Helens restaurants are slowly reopening this week, but some are not.
Columbia County got its reopening approval from the state last week. Restaurants and qualifying businesses were able to reopen as of Friday, May 15.
The Chronicle found the St. Helens restaurants that are opening this week are doing so at much reduced capacity.
Reopening is different
Under Phase 1 restrictions, restaurants are allowed to reopen, but must operate at half their original capacity, servers must don face masks, and extensive sanitation procedures must be followed.
Plymouth Pub, 298 S. 1st Street, plans to open on Wednesday, May 20, according to owner Brad Rakes, who said employees will have to wear masks and tables will have to be six feet apart to follow the state's requirements.
The restaurant will offer outside dining and occupancy of the restaurant will be about 50 customers, down from the restaurant’s current 100 seating capacity, Rakes said.
During the governor’s orders to Stay Home, Stay Safe, the restaurant closed for about two weeks in order for the chefs at the restaurant to get their childcare settled. Plymouth Pub has been open since April 8 for takeout only with limited staff.
“All the servers, dishwashers and bussers haven’t worked since March 16," Rakes said. "I had to get a hold of people to see if they wanted to come back, and everyone wants to come back so that’s good."
The restaurant also has lottery machines, which Rakes said will be in operation when the pub is open, but will be unplugged in between customers' use in order to discourage customers from playing the machines before they are sanitized by the employees.
Rakes said the reopening is encouraging.
“We’re excited to open," Rakes said. "We miss our customers.
Since Oregon restaurants closed on March 16 following the state Stay Home order, Sunshine Pizza, 2124 Columbia Boulevard, a sit-down eatery was able to offer to-go meals. Sunshine Pizza operators said they expected to reopen to in-person service this week.
The restaurant has several table booths that make social distancing measures of six feet of distance hard to comply with, according to owner Todd Stansbury. Because of that, he said Sunshine Pizza will reduce the 175 seats to 60, to meet the state requirements.
Additionally, the restaurant will be following the same hours that it has since it closed for seated dining, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m Monday through Thursday, and 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Customers can expect other changes when they walk into the restaurant. There will be no more salad bar for the foreseeable future. But there will be more options for prepared salads. There also will be no more self-serve drink tower, so when drinks are refilled, customers will receive a new cup.
Signatures will not be required on credit cards, although there will be a card-only policy in place, Stansbury said.
Because the restaurant is only allowed at 50 percent capacity under the Phase 1 requirements, people arriving to pick-up to-go orders will not be able to come in and sit. Those customers will pull up in their vehicle outside the restaurant, call the restaurant with their cell phone, and wait for the server to bring them their pizza.
Stansbury said they had to furlough roughly one-third of their staff.
“In the last three weeks, we have brought them all back," he said "We now have 100 percent back on. They may not be working the exact same number of hours, but they’re back on.”
Not opening for full service yet
There are some restaurants in St. Helens which will remain closed for sit-down dining for the time being, such as Dockside Steak & Pasta, 343 S. 1st Street.
“We want to open, but we need to be able to open at a financially feasible occupancy," Dockside owner Tiffany Smith said. "And we will do that when we can.”
Smith said the current setup inside Dockside makes it difficult to have more than a few customers because of the built-in walls, booths and bar.
The restaurant still offers takeout orders, which Smith estimated have increased about 90 percent since the beginning of the governor’s “Stay Home Stay Safe” order. But even with takeout, Smith said the restaurant has lost approximately 60-70 percent of its normal spring sales due to the pandemic and state order.
Before the pandemic hit, Smith said she had been operating Dockside with 32 staff members. She said she's been forced to lay off much of that staff. Currently, Dockside is operating with five full-time and two part-time staff members.
But Smith is encouraged with one other option, weather depending.
“We’ll be able to have patio seating when the weather is a little more consistent." Smith said. "We’ll be able to move out to our patio for that. That is kind of our plan, just utilizing outside while we can this summer."