LA GRANDE — The two-week pause on social activities that went into effect Wednesday, Nov. 11, is about to become a two-week freeze.
Gov. Kate Brown on Friday, Nov. 13, announced a series of rollbacks and restrictions to curb the rising tide of COVID-19 cases, including limiting restaurants and bars to takeout only and closing all gyms and fitness establishments.
The Oregon Health Authority on Thursday announced 1,122 news cases statewide, a new one-day record for Oregon, and Friday the OHA reported another 1,076 new cases, driving the state total to 54,937.
Union County’s case numbers have followed the upturn. The public health arm of the Center for Human Development, La Grande, reported 10 new cases Friday, increasing the county’s total to 574.
Mamacita’s International Grill in La Grande already had closed its downstairs dining area because of the six-person party limit under the pause. Assistant manager Connor Bracken said to some degree, the coming two-week freeze feels “almost like getting kicked when you’re down.”
While the freeze could well bottleneck a business as the holiday season gets underway, he stressed Mamacita’s will comply with the mandates. He also said the establishment will push through and credited the community for its support.
Merlyn Baker, head of food service for The Landing Hotel, said on Thursday the snowstorm hitting Northeast Oregon this weekend will have a greater financial impact than the pause. He explained there will likely be travelers here waiting for roads to open up.
“They will be looking for services,” said Baker, who also has his own business, Merlyn’s Catering.
Baker said the restaurants that fare best in the face of additional restrictions like those posed by the pause are those who strive to be adaptable. Kody Guentert, owner of Brother Bear Cafe in La Grande, said that is what he plans on doing.
“I’m gonna be delivering,” Guentert said. “I’m in talks right now with the PA office here in town. I’m gonna try to cone off two spots out front here (for outdoor seating), and I’ll be doing the delivery personally. ... You gotta do what you gotta do.”
Jennifer Li, manager at Moy’s Dynasty in La Grande, said the establishment has been doing some in-person dining, but the freeze is “going to be a pretty hard hit.”
“We’re hoping with November and the holiday season, with college students coming back from wherever they were, they’ll order or pickup,” she said.
Li said she and the crew at Moy’s Dynasty have been worried about the situation but also optimistic through these tough times.
“A lot of people in the community have been really supportive,” Li said.
Becky Boyd, owner of Becky’s Burger Wagon in La Grande, said she did not have to worry about the indoor dining, and she put away the table that was for outdoor seating. She also said the last set of dining restrictions led to an uptick for her business.
“People that hadn’t been here before now had a chance to stop in,” Boyd said. “We will be kicking up a delivery service in the very near future. We will also have homemade soup and chili. I don’t feel like it will hurt me in a bad way. Last time we were just exhausted, but that’s not really bad.”
PEAK Lifestyle Fitness Studio in downtown La Grande isn’t going to wait for the mandate to take effect and will start transitioning fitness classes online, owner Colleen McIntosh said.
“We are lucky to be able to easily transition,” she said. “Luckily we went all virtual before and my instructors know how to keep the energy up and keep people engaged.”