Last Night, Ezra Ace Caraeff Reopened His Bar. He Hopes He Won’t Have to Close It Again.

The Old Gold’s reopening was a logistical feat.

The Old Gold bar in Portland, OR. Photo by Jason Quigley

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

Ezra Ace Caraeff tries not think about what will happen when it rains.

On June 27, Caraeff reopened his North Portland bar, the Old Gold. It's one of four drinking establishments he owns—the others are Paydirt, Tough Luck and Hi-Top Tavern—and the first he's reopened after closing all four in late March.

The Old Gold's reopening was a logistical feat. Caraeff only opened four tables inside the bar; most patrons now sit on the patio or in a neighboring vacant lot where Caraeff has set up tables. Customers no longer queue at the bar to order. Instead, Caraeff rigged a mobile ordering system where patrons use their phones to request a finger of Buffalo Trace or a Tillamook grilled cheese. He even designed lightweight masks so kitchen staff won't overheat while keeping their faces covered.

None of that will make much difference if Oregon's COVID-19 cases keep rising.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown conceded this weekend she will have to shut bars down again if case numbers continue to increase. And even if the Old Gold can stay open, Caraeff realizes the outdoor drinking setup he's devised won't work when the seasons change and Oregon rain returns. So unless Multnomah County advances to the next stage of reopening, allowing more people to pack a barroom, his success will probably be fleeting.

In an interview with WW news editor Aaron Mesh, Caraeff discusses the pleasure of seeing people drinking together again, the precautions he's taking to prevent coronavirus spread, and the feeling that nothing Old Gold can stay.

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