Bartenders wore masks. Old friends hugged. Barflies drank pints at sidewalk picnic tables, spaced 6 feet apart. The mayor of Oregon City dropped by a pub to thank people for leaving home.

Clackamas County, one of the three largest counties in the Portland metro area, took the first steps to reemerging from COVID-19 shutdowns last night.

On May 22, Gov. Kate Brown permitted bars and restaurant dining rooms to reopen for the first time in more than two months, under new rules that included masks for all employees and last call at 10 pm.

Businesses had less than 24 hours' notice, but by May 23 several were offering onsite dining and drinking.

Few places in Oregon have been as anxious to reopen as Clackamas County, where a half-dozen mayors petitioned the governor early this month for a speedy return to business. Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay discussed opening without her sanction, but backed away from that idea. He dropped by a local pub, McAnulty & Barry's, to thank patrons for returning.

Our photographer Alex Wittwer visited Milwaukie, Lake Oswego and Oregon City on Saturday evening. The scene was far from the raucous bacchanals in some parts of the U.S. that have gone viral this Memorial Day weekend. Instead, people gathered in small groups, returning slowly to social life. Some wore masks. Others didn't.

Here's what the first toasts look like.

Wind Horse Coffee in Downtown Milwaukie. (Alex Wittwer)
Wind Horse Coffee in Downtown Milwaukie. (Alex Wittwer)
Holy Taco in Lake Oswego’s downtown shopping center. (Alex Wittwer)
Holy Taco in Lake Oswego’s downtown shopping center. (Alex Wittwer)
Pizzaria sul Lago in downtown Lake Oswego. (Alex Wittwer)
Pizzaria sul Lago in downtown Lake Oswego. (Alex Wittwer)
Patrons reunite at the Thirsty Duck Saloon in Oregon City. (Alex Wittwer)
Patrons reunite at the Thirsty Duck Saloon in Oregon City. (Alex Wittwer)
Tables at Mesa Fresca were arranged farther apart for social distancing. (Alex Wittwer)
Tables at Mesa Fresca were arranged farther apart for social distancing. (Alex Wittwer)
A cook at McAnulty & Barry’s takes a break to smoke a cigarette and read a sci-fi novel. (Alex Wittwer)
A cook at McAnulty & Barry’s takes a break to smoke a cigarette and read a sci-fi novel. (Alex Wittwer)
Closing time nears at Mesa Fresca in Oregon City. (Alex Wittwer)
Closing time nears at Mesa Fresca in Oregon City. (Alex Wittwer)