West Coast wildfires prompt temporary restaurant closures all over California, Oregon, and Washington

The poor air quality, especially in Portland, Ore., and San Francisco, has prompted temporary closures and operational changes for many restaurants


Joanna Fantozzi, Nation's Restaurant News 

Sep 14, 2020


After six months of navigating the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants on the West Coast are facing another deadly interruption: 4,000 miles of fires that have destroyed wildlife, communities and prompted evacuations up and down the coast. Over the past week, many restaurants made the difficult decision to shut down temporarily or until further notice as the air quality index reached 400 (considered “hazardous”) in Portland, 190 in San Francisco (considered “unhealthy”) and 175 in Seattle (also “unhealthy.”)


Restaurants and local governments have been left trying to determine which health crisis — COVID-19 or the air pollution levels — is more hazardous. Last week in Butte County, Calif., where at least 10 people have died of the wildfires, the public health department temporarily retracted its ban on indoor dining given the “emergency situation” of the fires and smoke inhalation dangers of outdoor dining, according to The Los Angeles Times. Two days later, the temporary relaxation of the rules was rescinded.


Individual restaurant owners and chains made the decision over the Sept. 11 weekend to temporarily close down restaurants. Vancouver, Wash.-based, 40-unit burger chain Burgerville had been relying almost entirely on mobile orders and had never reopened their dining rooms during the pandemic. On Friday, September 11, they closed all of their restaurants except their Portland airport location due to poor air quality. On Sunday, September 13, they experimented with opening three of their Northern-most locations in Washington and Oregon. The company distributed KN-95 masks to all employees, and created new safety policies for employees at the reopened locations:


“When the air quality index fell below the not-dangerous level, we looked at possibility of opening specific restaurants up again,” Hillary Barbour, director of strategic initiatives at Burgerville said...