Local businesses were given the green light to re-open on May 15 when Governor Kate Brown announced the state’s Phase One Re-Opening Plan. This news came with some caveats that had business owners and managers working hard to make their spaces safe for the public and their employees. After nearly two months of Stay Home, Stay Safe shutdowns some business owners were faced with the reality that if they did not open now, when they could, they might not open at all; and so they had to put into place measures that helped them feel comfortable with this new reality. Some businesses re-opened with the same hours and services they provided prior to the closures, some have opened with limited hours or limited seating and some have chosen to remain closed. Each business has had to decide how to implement the Phase One Re-Opening Guidelines for itself. In this new pandemic landscape, there must be rules, regulations and guidelines; and so, there were rules, regulations and guidelines. You can find the full list of business types that were allowed to re-open on the State of Oregon website, along with a list of counties approved to enter Phase One.
Many business owners have hung up the signs provided by the Oregon Health Authority and gone about business with few changes, other than a six-foot distance between patrons. There are industries, such as restaurants and hair salons, that have specific rules spelled out for them that require more than just a sign. For salon owners and workers there are rules such as pre-appointment health checks, face masks at all times, and contact tracing. The guidelines require that salons “remove all unnecessary items such as magazines, newspapers, service menus, and any other unnecessary items such as paper products, snacks, and beverages” from waiting rooms and have clients wait outside until their appointment time. For restaurants, “tables must be spaced at least six feet apart so that at least six feet between parties is maintained, including when customers approach or leave tables.” This has been difficult for many local restaurants which have limited space. Those restaurants who are unable to rearrange seating to maintain a six-foot distance are required to remain open only for pickup and delivery.
Are these guidelines and rules enough? Businesses are encouraged to come up with a comprehensive plan to protect the health of their patrons and employees based on their unique space, business type and size. Local retail stores have a variety of approaches to safety. We found signs requiring masks, social media posts asking customers not to handle products unless they were purchasing them, and temporary business-hour-adjustment announcements. Retail businesses up and down the coast are requiring that patrons wear face coverings and use hand sanitizer before touching products. Plexiglass “sneeze guards” in front of point of sale counters has become commonplace as businesses strive to find ways to protect their employees. Surely, we have all become familiar with the tape lines or circles on the ground to help us stay socially distanced at six feet.
Think you know the hours of your favorite store or restaurant? You might want to check in with them before heading their way, as we found that many local businesses have shortened their hours. This is especially true for restaurants and bars, as they are required in the Phase One Re-Opening Guidelines to close at 10 pm. A few businesses we spoke to are making their hours tentative and tell us that they are taking it day by day. Weekends on the coast bring big numbers of visitors and the potential for much-needed sales. But there is also the possibility of infection due to contact with those from more populated areas with more cases of the novel coronavirus. The larger numbers of people in town makes some owners nervous. One local business we spoke to told us that despite the chance to make more sales on weekends, they have made the decision to only be open on weekdays for the time being. They hope this will allow locals to shop but reduce their employees’ exposure to too many people.
As you venture out into the shopping world, or make an appointment to get your nails done, or stop by a local restaurant for a bite or a sip, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with each business’ safety precautions. Call ahead and ask if masks are required, read the new flyers taped to the window or pop your head in and ask an employee what is expected of you. The times we live in often require an extra step here or there but, with the cooperation of our community, we can work though the kinks and find our equilibrium. Compassion for owners, managers and employees during these difficult times is one of the greatest gifts you can give as you avail yourself of the services offered locally. Tip your waitresses and your barbers, smile at the cashier as you check out (don’t worry you can see a smile even through a mask) and make a little extra room in front of you when you stand in line — it makes a difference.
In addition to being professional photographers, Krista Melone and Rachel Baird are co-owners of Tah•Lume Curiosities & Gifts, which offers online commerce at www.tahlume.com.