Oregon Gov. Kate Brown lifted most COVID-19 related restrictions on June 30, allowing Oregon businesses to fully reopen. Under the new guidelines, masks and social distancing are no longer required, and businesses can be at full capacity.
After almost a year and a half of restrictions, local business owners and staff said they are pleased to be getting back to normal. Here are some of their stories.
Red Rooster Barbershop
Karyn Shields, the owner of Red Rooster Barbershop, said she feels free now that she doesn’t have to enforce mask mandates and capacity limits. She is tired of living in fear, she said.
Oregon reopened later than most states. Shields said it would have been nice if Oregon lifted its COVID-19 restrictions sooner, but she ultimately felt okay with the state’s timeline.
“It’s been going on for so long,” she said. “What’s another week to be safe?”
Shields said she doesn’t have a problem with masks being optional now, as she and most of her customers are vaccinated. But if customers feel more comfortable with her wearing a mask, Shields said she is happy to oblige.
Since cutting hair requires a lot of close contact, COVID-19 restrictions led to a steep decline in business for barbershops and salons across the country. Shields said her business was no exception.
Red Rooster is a small space with only three chairs available for customers. Under COVID-19 capacity restrictions, Shields said she could only see one customer at a time. She said capacity limits, combined with the shop’s limited hours and a four-day week, made money tight. Shields had to dip into her own savings to keep the business afloat.
But Red Rooster survived.
Shields said she is optimistic about business in the future, especially with students returning to campus in the fall.
Caspian Mediterranean Cafe
Brooke MacDonald, an employee at Caspian Mediterranean Cafe, said she is happy that restrictions have been lifted and that the restaurant is operating normally again.
At first, MacDonald said it felt weird to not wear a mask. But that feeling faded, she said, and she is now comfortable without one. Most employees are fully vaccinated and maintain good hygiene outside of work to keep themselves safe from the virus, MacDonald said.
MacDonald said Caspian did not allow indoor dining during most of the pandemic, even when state guidance allowed it. She said that the staff made up about a quarter of the space’s capacity, so it was never worth it to allow people to eat inside.
Now that people can dine inside without a mask, MacDonald said she has seen more customers walk in and buy food. But that’s not the only new sight she’s noticed.
“It’s nice to see people’s faces again,” MacDonald said. “I didn’t even know what one of my co-worker’s face looked like.”
Noisette Pastry Kitchen
While the state now allows businesses to fully reopen, not every business has committed to doing so. Tobi Sovak, the owner of Noisette Pastry Kitchen, said the only thing that changed for them is that they no longer wear masks; other than that, operations have remained unchanged from the pandemic.
Noisette’s dining area remains closed, and the bakery is only doing takeout. Sovak said COVID-19 slowed her business down for a long time, which makes it tough to reopen immediately.
“Even though the Governor says that we're fully open and available for business, it doesn't mean that business is ready for going back to what it was pre-COVID,” she said.
Sovak said the staff at Noisette was reduced during the pandemic, which put a lot of strain on employees. She said many members of her staff are tired from all the work they put in to keep things running.
“It's great that we're busy and we have jobs for lots of people,” she said. “But not having a break and having the seven-day-a-week business presents other kinds of challenges.”
Sovak said she is happy to no longer wear a mask and to see customers’ faces, but it also worries her. Sovak said she can only hope that maskless customers are vaccinated and staying safe — especially as the COVID-19 Delta variant continues to spread.