Recent, record-breaking surges of Omicron COVID cases are beginning to impact the city’s restaurant industry, even as it still works to recover from the pandemic-related obstacles it has already endured.
This week, popular spots like Bernstein Bagels, Eem and Lottie & Zula’s each announced short closures due to staff COVID exposures. Bernstein was back within a day. Eem also returned, but under its former takeout/delivery model, for the time being.
Lottie & Zula’s staff exposure came at a delicate time for the sandwich shop. It was in the middle of opening a collaborative market with Erica’s Soul Food and a record shop named In-A-Gadda-Da-Vinyl. The exposure meant a delay in Erica Montgomery’s planned move of her food cart from Southeast 82nd Avenue to the new Northeast Russell Street location.
“It has been an awful turn of events, but we will be back at it very soon!” she tells WW, adding that she would move her cart when cleared to return to the kitchen.
Lottie & Zula’s is looking at the surge head on with a new approach: “We will be dividing our crew into two independent pods,” a post on the shop’s social media reads. “So if we have another positive test, we can remain open without putting the entire crew and their families at risk.” Not only will Lottie & Zula’s reopen next week, but it says it’s adding Mondays to its schedule of open hours and expanding the new grab-and-go section.
Today, St. Johns Italian restaurant Gabagool announced it was moving back to takeout, delivery and outside dining for the time being.
“Looking around at a packed house last night while new cases in Oregon hit 10,000 made us reevaluate things,” the restaurant wrote on social media. “We want to keep everyone safe especially our staff....This is the fourth(?) time we’ve shut down our indoor seating. I’ve lost count. The COVID fatigue is real.”
Just before the new year, dumpling restaurant XLB posted about a brush with COVID exposure—which turned out to be negative. But in the days since, the restaurant has taken each day as it comes, writing: “Our schedule, like many others, is going to be somewhat inconsistent for the immediate future. We’re taking it into consideration each day and in turn we’ll keep you posted here. We appreciate your understanding...Big sigh.”
Staffing shortages were a problem for most restaurants even before the recent surge, so it’s probably not a bad idea for restaurant lovers to check on their desired dining establishments before heading out—to make sure the place they plan on brunching at is still serving and avoid broken foodie hearts.