EMMA ROUTLEY/THE CHRONICLE
Indoor dining at TJ’s Restaurant and Lounge in Creswell features new sanitation methods, said Joe Salvo, general manager and head chef.
It’s been a year since the first case of the Coronavirus was first reported in Oregon, and people are just now beginning to feel a slow return to normalcy.
After months of empty bar stools and benches, Joe Salvo, general manager and head chef at TJ’s Restaurant & Lounge in Creswell said it’s been an exciting challenge to see the restaurant get back into the swing of things.
Dining restrictions were loosened Feb. 26 and allows for indoor dining at either 25% capacity or 50 people in an establishment at one time, as well as up to 75 people for outdoor dining.
TJ’s is operating nearly at mass capacity during open hours, Salvo said. “The demand is “overwhelming.”
There was a line out the door of TJ’s a half an hour before the restaurant opened on Friday, Salvo said. “It has definitely been booming. Our capacity is 50 people, and we’ve been pretty much doing that all day long since.” Weekend breakfast hours are among the busiest times for the restaurant, in addition to prime rib Friday dinner specials, he said.
Customers are eager and in good spirits, and Salvo is seeing many faces he hasn’t seen since pre-pandemic. “Some people braved the cold and sat in the outside dining area when they could, but we definitely haven’t seen a lot of these faces in a while. They seem really glad that we are open,” he said.
Salvo has a crew of longtime employees, though is still a little understaffed for the surge of customers. “I don’t know if it was due to the employment program seeming desirable with the pandemic, but it’s been very hard to find employees,” he said.
Customers can expect to walk into TJ’s and find the restaurant more “cleared out” and spacious, sanitizing stations, and staff and customers wearing masks. Salvo said the restaurant is also working on installing plexi-glass around the lottery machines.
“It’s a little different than it was over a year ago,” Salvo said. “We are keeping it very family oriented: no smoking on the patio, tables and chairs are six feet apart, and a friendly staff to help people enjoy their time eating out while they can. I hope it lasts.”
Lane County Public Health spokesperson Jason Davis said that the low case numbers are promising – around 20 a day – and if the county continues on this trend and get its cases per 10,000 below 100, it is on track to enter the moderate risk level, further loosening restrictions for business owners.
In city-by-city coronavirus cases: Springfield, 3,099 (+72 since last week); Cottage Grove, 343 (+10); Creswell, 266 (+5); and Pleasant Hill, 59 (+1). County health officials report 10,320 total cases and 128 deaths by presstime Tuesday.
With 22,497 full doses having been administered, about 5.87% of the county’s population is fully-vaccinated. The groups of focus are all groups in 1A and the first five groups in 1B – ages 65 and older.
Over 9,000 doses are being allocated this week in Lane County, including 7,020 doses of Pfizer; 300 doses of Moderna; and 2,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson. Of this allotment, public health will receive 900, and 1,100 doses will be sent to Bi-marts.
Federal pharmacy program has allocated 1,800 doses to HealthMart pharmacies, Albertsons, Safeway and Costco. Each pharmacy will receive 100 doses to 18 pharmacies.