This had already been a challenging week for Ten Down Bowling in Roseburg.
The cancellation of sports across the board due to the novel coronavirus — including the hugely popular men’s and women’s college basketball championships — had put a crimp in business at the bowling alley’s sports bar, Splitz Bar & Grill. The postponement of a statewide bowling tournament, scheduled to begin the first week in April at Ten Down, didn’t help either.
But those struggles are nothing compared to the financial and emotional hardship Ten Down co-owner Mariah Smith said she fears is coming following Monday’s news that the business would have to shut its doors for at least a month following a decree by Gov. Kate Brown.
“Of course everybody is extremely sad, mostly because our employees are losing their incomes,” Smith said Monday afternoon, shortly after learning Ten Down would have to close. “How do you tell one employee that they can take some hours and another one that they can’t? We have our group of owners and we’re going to get together and figure out how to best deal with this for us, our employees and their families.”
Brown announced Monday afternoon that she is closing the state’s bars and restaurants, and banning gatherings of more than 25 people, in the latest set of actions meant to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Restaurants can continue take-out and delivery options and the prohibition on gatherings will have an exemption for workplaces, grocery stores, pharmacies, child care and retail outlets. The ban is scheduled to last at least four weeks.
Violating the governor’s executive order is a misdemeanor, but Brown urged people to comply to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. She also urged Oregonians to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
The decision was an about-face from Monday morning, when Brown said she was reluctant to close bars and restaurants, in part due to a conference call she held Sunday with hundreds of elected officials.
“Particularly in our rural communities, restaurants are a key provider of meals to a lot of the elderly and vulnerable folks,” Brown said earlier. “We are taking these concerns seriously as we develop policy.”
It’s the latest state response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., 51 Oregonians have tested positive for the virus and one has died, though a limited number of tests are available and are being offered only to those who are sickest and at the greatest risk, health officials said Monday.
Brown said the new restrictions are an effort to slow the rate of infection so that state and federal resources can catch up to the problem — a strategy many are referring to as flatting the curve of the outbreak.
The governor is also acting to prevent price gouging for high-demand items such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
She said her understanding from discussing the problem with retail outlets is that there is enough supply. But she asked state residents to exercise restraint.
“I want to encourage folks to only purchase what they need for a week or so,” she said.
Other states had already implemented strict measures in response to coronavirus. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee temporarily shut down restaurants, bars and entertainment and recreational facilities statewide, like gyms and movie theaters. Restaurants will offer take-out and delivery service only.
California closed all bars, wineries, nightclubs and brewpubs, while Illinois ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close for two weeks to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Oregon restaurants had already seen a dip in sales, and Brown’s edict was another blow.
Some local eateries, including the Lighthouse Center Bakery in Umpqua, had already closed. The bakery posted the following message on its web site last week:
“Serving our community with love, compassion and care, we are taking this precautionary step to temporarily close Lighthouse Center Bakery during the coronavirus outbreak... We can’t wait to serve you again at Lighthouse Center Bakery with a smile once the coronavirus outbreak has subsided.”
Others had already limited their face-to-face contact with customers. At the Burger King on Northeast Garden Valley Boulevard on Monday, signs told customers that the restaurant had closed its dining room and was serving food through its drive-thru.
Several restaurants said they had already seen a sharp decrease in customers in the last week or so.
Logger’s Tap House owner Sam Gross said business has been down 15%. He said to his surprise there hasn’t been an increase in deliveries.
Jersey Lilly bartender Frank Kerp said he estimated business was down about 30%.
Pete’s Drive-In owner Darrell Orth said the business saw a decrease in visitors last week, but appeared to be having a bit of an uptick of late. Orth said he was surprised by the governor’s order, but he thinks he understands the intention behind it.
While Orth’s business will be able to continue under the ban, since all his food is takeout, he said it’s going to be difficult.
“This is kind of crippling the small business guy a little bit more than it is the big business guy, but time will tell and you know we’ll all just endeavor to persevere, right?” he said.
Kelsey Thomas, an employee at Ten Down Bowling since September 2019, learned of the news before arriving at work Monday.
“At first, I was like, yea, I get to go home now and have a spring break,” Thomas said, “and then I’m like, I have rent to pay.”
Thomas said her savings account should provide enough to help pay bills during what is expected to be temporary unemployment.
“I’m not worried about the rent part,” Thomas said, “unless this lasts six months.”
Smith, an owner of Ten Down Bowling, said it was hard to plan because the announcement was so sudden. Everybody was excited that Ten Down was hosting the two-month-long Oregon State Open Championship, which was initially scheduled to begin April 4.
“We’ve been ramping up, hiring new employees and getting them trained for the tournament,” Smith said.
Even when she learned the decision had been made to push the tournament back a month, she remained hopeful. Then came Monday’s decision by the Governor, and a whole new set of difficult decisions presented itself.
“We have to weigh our options and see if it’s worth it for us to do just carryout or delivery. We don’t know if that’s a good option for us,” Smith said.
And then the even more difficult decisions surrounding the bowling alley’s 38 employees.
“It’s hard to think about telling staff they may not have a job,” Smith said. “It’s scary to think what this is going to mean for us over a month.”