Diners enjoying brunch at SE 26th Ave. and Clinton
Photo by Nancy Tannler

By Nancy Tannler

Beginning last month, business owners could apply for free permits to winterize their existing street space or to create one.

PBOT, Portland Bureau of  Transportation,  started the Healthy Business Program in June 2020 just as Oregonians entered Phase 2 of reopening from COVID-19 requiring physical distancing for all business spaces.

This proved to be a success, helping more than 700 businesses find a way to expand their business space in order to maintain the six feet safety regulations required by the state.

Any businesses that held a permit during the summer months will be required to reapply for the winter campaign. PBOT will review all permits on a case-by-case basis and this new permit will be good through March 2021. Hannah Schafer, of PBOT said they have received over 240 permit applications so far.

The new Winter Healthy Businesses Program allows businesses to have tents in on-street parking spaces. It provides guidance for the use of extension cords for heaters and lighting in order to shield customers and merchandise from the weather.

Tents cannot be within 50 feet of an intersection, to ensure visibility and safety of the traveling public, unless an exception is granted.

Wendi Maxwell, owner of The Low Tide (formerly The Conquistador), 2045 SE Belmont, said they will expand upon what they are already doing by enclosing the street seating they built during the summer initiative.

“The street seating only gave us three extra tables,” she said, “but our covered patio area allows for five extra tables outside.” Heaters will make it usable for most winter days.

In restaurants and bars it doesn’t matter whether they are seating one person or 10, they are required to keep the same physical distancing.

Maxwell said the added space of the program has helped small businesses stay afloat since they are often physically small.

Portland has a large amount of service industry jobs and COVID-19 has been especially hard on these workers.

“After nine years, the employees become like family,” she adds. So her business does what they can to help everyone out.

The Low Tide Lounge is a neighborhood bar serving Latin American bar food – plantain chips, empanadas, bowls, nachos, vegan ceviche – all available for take out, too. The margarita is their specialty drink.

Over on SE Clinton and 26th Ave, six businesses applied together when PBOT first introduced the Healthy Business Program last spring and converted Clinton into an outdoor plaza.

Broder, La Moule, Dot’s, Magna Kusina, Clinton St. Pub and the Lucky Horseshoe all worked collaboratively to make this successful for everyone.

Carlo Lamagna, the owner of Magna Kusina, spoke with The Southeast Examiner about how the PBOT program is working for these businesses and what it means going into winter.

When they were granted the first permit to close Clinton Street from 25th to 26th Ave., the owners built picnic tables and collectively bought canopies with the capability of adding sides should they need to make them more enclosed.

“These investments are all paid for by the individual owners,” Lamagna said. “It helped though, to buy with the group.”

Each establishment has tables situated in front of their business, so customers generally sit by the place they are frequenting. Lamagna said the natural flow is to respect each other’s space, especially since they all have different levels of OLCC permits.

Born in the Philippines and raised in the US, Lamagna returned to the Philippines for college. Magna Kusina’s food is legitimately authentic; serving “evolutionary Filipino cuisine” strongly influenced by Spanish, Asian and Malaysian cultures.

Peter Bro, the restaurateur behind Broder, Savoy Tavern and Broder Nord, said they are doing all they can to keep businesses open. Fortunately, most of the businesses in this section of Clinton St. are restaurants or bars, so it didn’t take much convincing to move on the permits offered by PBOT.

Broder is a popular Swedish food and brunch location with offerings of aebleskiver, gravlax fix, Danish pancakes, Swedish hash, Norwegian lefse and more.

People are getting used to this section of Clinton being closed, Bro said, so he hopes the street plaza will remain even beyond the March 31 deadline.

The area includes a bike lane so there is still traffic. The Clinton group will look into PBOT’s Street Vacation process which removes the public’s right-of-way interest and returns control of the land to the underlying owners indefinitely.