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112 Days Later: Stasis

A quiet Migration Brewing in Gresham at opening on Friday

I found myself writing this the morning after what I can only describe as the most apathetic feeling Fourth of July I can remember. It’s difficult to sum up, condense into a single word, or define it by the usual hollow platitudes that we would’ve in years past. It really sucked.

No matter how we term our reality right now, it seems clear that we’re in the midst of a paradigm shift like none we’ve seen in our lifetimes. Yet there isn’t a “new normal” and returning to where we were before the pandemic began now seems a completely foolish notion.

We are living through a Grey Area in time, something akin to Limbo. And while Purgatory seems too strong a word, it might just work too.

Then there’s Stasis… defined as “a period or state of inactivity or equilibrium.” Also as “a stoppage of flow of a body fluid,” or “civil strife.”

To me it mirrors where we are as a nation, emotionally and physically, as we finish a fourth month of hand washing, quarantine, sanitizing, social distancing, home delivery, civil unrest for social justice, phases, and all that’s come to define our present existence.

The following is an update of what’s happening in Oregon, the local beer community, our civil discourse today, and what we can do as a country to combat the stasis of this moment in time.

Oregon

After much consternation and an additional week of delay, the state finally saw fit to allow Multnomah County to reopen for business in a Phase 1 capacity. That it happened 6 days before masks were required in retail spaces (when not seated) was another curious choice, though it seems the message was received and businesses are (mostly) enforcing it.

Oregon’s Coronavirus data as of 6pm on July 6th – via nytimes.com

Never mind the fact that this all happened between a post-Memorial Day spike and the latest peak of reported cases on July 2nd (375). As of July 1st, the governor announced that facial coverings are required to be worn statewide in public indoor spaces (when not seated, eating or drinking). Since June 19th we’ve seen 9 days, out of 17, with statewide cases reported to be in excess of 200 and 4 out of 5 days of reported cases topping 300 (July 2nd-6th).

While the total number of cases over the last five days has been in slow decline, one can only presume the numbers will tick up again after the holiday and who knows where things will be two weeks from now.

The Beer Community

Baerlic Brewing opened their Super Secret Beer Club on June 26th

I’d be remiss to not update the status of what’s happening in Portland’s beer community, as well as what reopening looks like.

We experienced the first reported cases of brewery employees having contracted the virus – first at a brewery in Vancouver, WA, then a second case two days later at a brewery in Portland.

Following each report, both locations shut down temporarily to ensure everyone’s safety by following compliance protocols, then each reopened roughly a week later. Both were transparent in announcing it to the public via social media and it seems readily evident that they’ve taken the proper course of action for the safety of their employees, as well as the general public.

This was a stark wake up call. As much as we want to be done with COVID, it’s certainly not done with us…

And yes, businesses have continued to reopen as quite a few breweries and taprooms have returned to an onsite retail capacity, especially those with patio space. While fewer restaurants and bars have reopened, with many taking a wait-and-see approach, those with outdoor spaces are finding ways to make it work.

Below: Visits over the past two weeks to Grains of Wrath, 54-40 Brewing, Final Draft Taphouse, Swift Cider, Wayfinder Beer, Migration Brewing (Gresham), and Baerlic Brewing (SE).

Some businesses are rightfully skeptical, monitoring the pulse of the public and our collective safety only seems prudent – a big contrast from the Land Rush mentality that was prevalent during the early days of home delivery. Beyond the obvious safety concerns, many businesses continue to get by with take-out and delivery services (along with government loans & subsidies), often enabling their furloughed employees to receive more income via unemployment versus less certain retail traffic and tips.

As for what I’m seeing day to day in the world of beer distribution, it’s become a little more complicated and busier than ever before. Demands for draft have increased over the past month, which has quickly become more available from breweries that’ve reopened. Just as packaged beer was in high demand early on (difficult to come by as breweries were transitioning from on-site draft, to on-site packaged beer and home delivery), the industry is slowly increasing demand for draft while canned offerings continue to move at a rapid pace in bottle shops and grocery stores.

I honestly believe a vast segment of the general public isn’t ready or willing to test the waters at locations reopening. Those who once routinely visited draft taprooms/breweries are certainly more likely to go out and support their favorite locals today, though roughly half the locations I’ve visited over the past month (15) have been operating at half the 50% maximum capacity mandated by Phase 1, or around 25% capacity.

One example of irregular traffic can be seen in the above header image of Migration Brewing in Gresham. I visited just after their 11am opening on a holiday weekend and it was very quiet – there’s also no patio seating nor is it a pedestrian friendly location. Then consider their original location in Portland with it’s vast patio space and steady business. Outdoor seating and being a neighborhood gathering space appear more important than ever.

And as a rule of thumb, when I’m visiting a location these days, I go early or late to avoid potential crowds, find an ideal seat, all in the hopes of spreading the word about why folks should visit them.

For those businesses who can do it, taking an all of the above approach (on-site service, home delivery, and to-go sales), without over investing in any given segment, seems the most prudent option during these volatile times.

I honestly wonder where we’ll be in two weeks time, though I’ve already heard rumblings about the county (or counties) being shut down again. I doubt Multnomah will soon advance to Phase 2 status, more likely staying in a Phase 1 holding pattern, if not a retreat back to the shut-down status where we started.

Resources for businesses considering reopening…

Civil Strife

The Multnomah County Justice Center in Downtown Portland last week.

If there’s a place where we can invest our time and energy it’s in continuing to support locally owned businesses, especially those owned by BIPOC.

The conversation must continue, as well as support for foundations and political action groups working toward greater equality, defunding of police organizations, plus the rebuilding and restructuring of local social services.

The actions above seem the most socially responsible ways we can invest our energy during a time when it’s hard to gather in mass, though I’d never dissuade anyone from continuing to peacefully protest in the streets.

It feels as though what’s transpired over the past five weeks is only the beginning of a greater movement that I don’t see abating any time soon. We’ve still a long way to go and years of work ahead, but if we remain vigilant, and use our combined influence to seek a more just society, then there’s little we can’t accomplish.

Further thoughts and ways to have your voice heard…

Finding Solutions

One way to effect change between now and November is by pushing government to make voting easier for citizens, not harder. It became more difficult 7 years ago when a Supreme Court decision stripped out key provisions of 1965’s Voting Rights Act, namely a provision “requiring states and municipalities with histories of voting discrimination to obtain federal approval before changing their balloting procedures.”

Fair and equal participation in elections has clearly disappeared, evidenced by problems already seen during the primaries this year in Georgia (closed polling places, broken machines, and long lines) and Kentucky’s reduction of 3,700 polling places to only 170 – a state that wasn’t even one of those nine the Voting Rights Act was created for in the first place. In short, we need a new Voting Rights Act.

Citizens especially need the option to mail in ballots. If your state already allows for mail-in or absentee ballots, push to make it available, as well as early voting for all states. Volunteer to get people registered to vote or participate in ways to get voters mobilized via the various ways listed below:

In order for us to dig our way out of the blatantly obvious systemic problems our country has been putting off for far too long, we need everyone invested in what that will look like. We need leaders we can trust, a change in how our taxpayer dollars are spent, and concrete solutions to all of the realities this pandemic has shown an even brighter light upon.

I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are in good health, that you’re doing something different each day to help you get through this trying time, and that you’re staying out of harms way.

Until next time… don’t be afraid to get your blood up.

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