Portland restaurants struggling with power outages and ice damage during weekend snowstorm

Valentine’s Day weekend is usually huge in terms of dining: diners shell out heaps of cash for luxe prix fixe menus, while others gather at dive bars with friends. This year’s version of vacation, amid the coronavirus pandemic, was always going to be slower, but some restaurateurs were hopeful. Reservations were flying and Portland restaurants could reopen for indoor service for the first time since November.

However, the onset of snow and sleet thwarted many restaurant owners’ plans for the weekend. Around the city, more than 10 inches of snow and an entire inch of ice resulted in multi-day power outages, fallen trees, stranded cars and school closings. Portland’s lack of regular annual snowfall often leaves the city unprepared for major snow events, which means roads can be icy, sidewalks not shoveled, and cars stranded in the streets.

This made plans for the Valentine’s Day weekend and President’s Day difficult for restaurant and bar owners, who relied on a slight respite from the grueling realities of running a restaurant during the storm. winter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even those who attempted to open have encountered frozen pipes, crumpled outdoor dining spaces crushed by snow, and power outages that shut them down for days.

At the end of last week, as snow began to pile up throughout the city, some business owners expected the light rain of snow that Portland often receives every year. “It’s ‘technically’ snowing in Portland, but we’re not afraid of a light dusting,” read an article on Cooperativa’s Instagram page. “Did you all know Chef @thomaspishaduffly lived in Maine, Boston and Vermont before heading west to Oregon?” Read the caption of an article published Thursday by the Hollywood spot Gado Gado. “He has a lot of practice for cooking in cold, snowy weather. “

While Gado Gado owners Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly are familiar with snow, the couple encountered a number of roadblocks as they tried to open throughout the weekend, ranging from slippery roads to fallen trees. When they came to shovel the promenade on Monday to reopen, the power was cut. Two dozen Maine lobsters, shipped here for Gado Gado’s Valentine’s Day menu, arrived Tuesday, dead; Thomas Pisha-Duffly expects the restaurant to lose $ 10,000 this weekend alone. “We will see the rest. Great? The great earthquake? We are running out of natural disasters, ”says Thomas Pisha-Duffly. “We almost laugh about it. What else can we do? “

Those who have been forced to shut down have not only lost a crucial increase in income that Valentine’s Day often offers; they lost tons of really expensive ingredients. Smokin Fire Fish, the Hawaiian restaurant located in the North Russell Tamale Boy, had to throw away much of its produce from the previous week and had to close on Tuesday to prepare for the week ahead. Others have tried to make up for some of the lost profits by selling fresh foods reserved for Valentine’s Day menus. Quaintrelle has sold some of its Dungeness on Instagram for people to come in and buy, while Flying Fish has lowered the price of some of its seafood for Valentine’s Day.

Even those who had food to serve had no place to serve it: the outdoor dining spaces, not only icy and snow-covered, simply collapsed. Nightingale owner Luna Contreras was approaching her first Valentine’s Day at her new restaurant when the snow started to fall. the restaurant has chosen to remain closed on Valentine’s Day. But on Monday, Contreras got an Instagram message from Maurice’s owner Kristen D. Murray, saying the newly built outdoor dining room at Nightingale had collapsed – her employees witnessed and photographed the structure as she was falling. Contreras and co-owner Chris Mateja had spent $ 1,500 on its construction. “We’re sitting on a product, I’m going to try to stick with takeout and delivery this week, see if that helps us recover. I want to try to get the structure going, ”she said. “Yeah, it costs money, but luckily we’re still safe, I guess.” “

Businesses that were able to open reported high numbers, with people still looking for dinner options as grocery stores closed. Brian Carrick, the owner of the Italian restaurant and Please Louise pizzeria in northwest Portland, opens daily this weekend and only closes on Mondays. They were rewarded with a huge increase in business. “We had higher numbers than usual, possibly the highest level of activity we’ve seen since October,” he says. “I have had people who came to buy wine and beer to take away, saying that we were the only place they could buy beer that was open… No one cooks at home anymore, certainly not in this. part of town so it seems people were really excited to have an option.

Carrick says opening was fairly easy with his small staff: he says many employees live within walking distance of the restaurant and those with cars driving have taken some employees for shifts. Employees wanted to work weekends, he said, or rather, they wanted the stability of work provided. “They didn’t exactly want to lose two-thirds of their salary. Plus … people like to go out, even if it’s just for work, ”he says. “We entered the restaurant business to serve customers, part of customer service is being open whenever you can. ”

Portland restaurants and wagons closed for snow [EPDX]
• The Portland Metro may reopen for limited dining on February 12. [EPDX]

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Sandy A. Greer