Oregon, New Mexico halt on-site restaurant dining, inside and out

The service rollbacks will extend for at least two weeks. New Mexico's re-closing begins Monday, and Oregon will start policing the shutdown on Wednesday.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurants in Oregon and New Mexico will be required to suspend all on-premise dining—indoor and outdoor—for at least two weeks beginning next Wednesday by order of their respective governors, marking the second and third statewide shutdowns of restaurant dining rooms in less than two weeks. 

The service rollbacks are more far-reaching than the cutback Illinois Gov. Jay Pritzker put into effect within his state on Oct. 30. Illinois restaurants were required to discontinue dine-in service but have been allowed to continue seating customers outdoors as well as offering takeout and delivery. Oregon and New Mexico are eliminating all table service. Formerly, restaurants in both states could use up to 50% of their dining rooms to serve customers provided parties were kept at least six feet apart.

Like Illinois, San Francisco will allow restaurants to continue serving guests outdoors when its reclosing of restaurant dining rooms begins as of midnight tonight. 

Jurisdictions across the country have been re-imposing limits on restaurant service in hopes of slowing a third wave of coronavirus infections. Maryland, for instance, lowered its capacity cap on indoor dining to 50% on Wednesday. New York is imposing a 10 p.m. curfew on restaurant and bar service to discourage patrons from lingering after last calls.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine indicated two days ago that he will re-shut restaurants on Thursday if his state does not flatten a dramatic spike in new COVID-19 cases. The state’s tally of new infections accelerated today.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he’ll lower the capacity limits on indoor dining within his state if the rate of new infections does not decelerate.

Three counties in Oregon had already suspended dining-room service because of spikes in new coronavirus infections. Brown said she expects those jurisdictions—Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas—to keep restaurants limited to takeout for longer than the two-week shutdown she ordered statewide.

As with all but a few states, Oregon is seeing a steep climb in new cases of COVID-19. The rollback of on-site restaurant dining is necessary “in order to give Oregon a fighting chance to contain COVID-19 across our state,” Gov. Kate Brown said. “This is definitely a challenging situation.”

The Democrat said she set the reclosing for next week rather than immediately to spare restaurants the added economic wallop of throwing away food they’ve already purchased. “Our businesses need some time to prepare,” Brown said. “The last time we went into shutdown mode it was on very short notice. I wanted to be sure they had enough time to use up their supplies.”

Health experts are warning that the spread of coronavirus is likely to be broader and deeper this winter than the level of infection the nation saw in the spring. That first wave prompted every state but one to discontinue dine-in restaurant service.

“We are obviously devastated by the news today of shutting down all in-person dining. This will ultimately result in the permanent closure of restaurants across the state," Carol Wight, CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association, said in a statement. "We are quite literally begging our legislators, our congressional leadership and the Governor to please advocate for a relief bill that will support restaurants and small businesses, and their employees. "

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