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March 19, 2020

Several events cancelled and tourism to area suffers

The Dig In Diner in Fossil was excited to host their first St. Patrick’s Day celebration this week. A musician had been booked. The green beer was ready, and the staff were excited to throw a celebration for the community.

As a new business in Fossil, owners Jaclyn and Amy McNeill have worked to rebuild the cozy restaurant and bar during the slow winter months and were excited to usher in the spring and the tourists that flock to the Painted Hills and John Day River.

Now, instead of hosting a big bash and preparing for start of tourist season, The Dig In Diner and all area restaurants and bars have been ordered to suspend dine-in services.

Governor Kate Brown has ordered all bars to close for four weeks and restaurants to do takeout only.

Kelly Jo Janes is the owner of the Condon Round-Up and experienced the boom and bust of COVID-19 like few other businesses in the area.

Preparing for the popular Tumbleweed Tournament in Condon that usually brings dozens of people to her bar, mid-March is usually one of her biggest weekends of the year. Janes is now faced with closure for four weeks. The Tumbleweed Tournament was postponed but not rescheduled and Janes has been forced to sit on the extra food and alcohol she ordered for the weekend. Now, she has to stop pouring drinks for four weeks. Kelly Jo is working to keep the Condon Round-Up afloat and is offering delivery and to go food during the mandatory closure.

“We can still do takeout and delivery. Any business at all is appreciated,” said Kelly Jo. “We’re going to miss all the faces until we can get you back in here but if there is anything we can get to you, we’ll get it to you,” she said on March 16th before having to close the bar. The Condon Round-Up is licensed to sell beer and wine to go and hopes that people will take them up on the offer to have food and drinks delivered to their homes in Condon.

The burden on businesses are not limited to restaurants and bars.

“Any business at all is appreciated. We’re going to miss all the faces until we can get you back in here but if there is anything we can get to you, we’ll get it to you.” – Kelly Jo Janes, Condon Round-Up

Laura Wilensky had been waiting for her first gallery exhibit for many years. After working to make her photography and art ready for the public, Laura was finally ready for a debut that is scheduled to take place at the Rosenbaum Gallery in Mitchell on March 21st.

Now her big debut is likely going to be much smaller than planned and her day job is also on the line.

In addition to being an artist, Laura is also part owner of Painted Hills Vacation Homes. According to co-owner Barbara Jacobi, the Painted Hills Vacation Homes are booked solid for spring break but there are no international tourists booked at this time.

“If we can’t figure this out in the next four weeks, we will be finished,” she said. March is usually the month that things begin to pickup for the Painted Hills Vacation Homes and businesses in Mitchell. However, fewer international tourists are expected to visit this spring and summer. The hospitality industry is bracing for potential closures that are reportedly being discussed by state health officials and Governor Brown.

Tiger Town Brewery in Mitchell is also weathering the storm. The popular brewery and meeting spot is a hub for locals and an enclave for tourists. Recently, the brewery started bottling beer and has offered growlers to go. Owner Shawn Hawkins says that “Plans are subject to change but we’ll be doing to-go orders and growler fills. The dining room won’t be open and we’re doing credit cards only. We’re trying to do everything possible so that nobody has to have physical contact. We’ll take orders at the curb, to help people maintain social distancing,” said Mr. Hawkins.

Country Flowers in Condon will be open and is working to keep an air of normalcy in these trying times. “We’re going to be open our regular hours, may have to reduce shifts for employees” said owner Darla Seale.  “Everything will be in a to-go container.”

This is an unprecedented time for small businesses. While the Small Business Administration is beginning to offer low-interest loans to help small businesses stay afloat, the severity of the required closures will have an immediate impact on businesses.

Many local establishments operate on very small margins. The Condon Chamber of Commerce is working to help promote local businesses in these trying times and has the following recommendations to area businesses and patrons:

  • We encourage members to continue to have individual interactions to conduct business and build relationships. Referring each other is now more important than ever. Together we are stronger.
  • We know our restaurants, bars, coffee shops, service industry and other retail establishments at a minimum are seeing a decline in patronage. Think of ways to continue to support them. Order for pick up, buy gift cards in person or digitally where available, patronize a variety of establishments to support each other’s business.
  • Reschedule versus cancel any events exceeding 250 people that you may be planning, this can help our economic recovery going forward.
  • If you are sick, please opt out of meetings and gatherings, take time to rest at home until you are well.
  • Replace handshakes and hugs with non-contact greetings.
  • Increase your digital and voice communications, stay connected with us and each other.
  • Read our newsletter and other digital communications as we work to keep you informed on things that impact business, including COVID-19.

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