Students describe downtown dine-in, takeout experiences during COVID-19
Updated: Oct 25, 2021
Downtown Salem has a lot to offer Willamette students, from coffee shops perfect for homework and study sessions to restaurants to catch up with friends in. But ever since closures and restrictions were set in place in March due to COVID-19, the atmosphere of these businesses have changed. Masks and distancing are required, hours are limited and dining in is not always an option. Despite the changes Salem businesses have had to make, there are still ways for students to enjoy the local restaurants and cafes they loved before COVID-19, whether that be through a takeout or dine-in experience.
Cole Fetherston (‘23) recently went to Ritter’s Housemade Foods on Liberty Street. Ritter’s gives its customers the option of dining indoors or outdoors. Fetherston observed that some of the customers and staff were wearing masks, while others were taking less precautions. “The staff were wearing either masks or face shields. Some even had a weird mask that only covered their mouth, maybe their nose,” Fetherston said. “It didn’t seem like there was any requirement for customers to wear face coverings even when they weren’t eating, which I found odd. Most people waiting inside were not wearing a face covering.”
Wearing a facial covering became a requirement for businesses and individuals gathering indoors on July 1st. The Oregon OSHA (Oregon Occupational Safety and Health) states that store managers should politely remind customers of the mask requirement if the customer is not wearing one. Masks are required outdoors when social distancing is not possible (govstatus.ecogov.com).
Fetherston detailed the experience of dining indoors at Ritter’s. “I was hoping to get a table outdoors, but they didn’t have any, [as] it was pretty packed outdoors.”
Spacing between the tables and other people at Ritter’s was possible, according to Fetherston. “I was able to distance from who I was eating with and the other tables.”
Fetherston offered advice to students who are considering indoor dining: “I don’t think they [Ritter’s] were following enough precautions. I get it’s hard, but it didn’t feel safe. It’s not something I would do again. The food was good, but I would not recommend indoor dining.”
Students who want to experience outdoor dining can try alternative restaurants on or near State Street. The section of State Street leading from the intersection with Liberty Street down to Riverfront Park is closed off to cars to allow for Taproot customers to adequately distance from others and enjoy a relatively safe outdoor dining experience in the street. Taproot is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Wednesday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the weekends.
Turning right off State Street onto Liberty, one can also try 503 Sushi, a restaurant that offers dine-in, takeout and delivery. 503 Sushi is currently open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., depending on the day. Evan Kohne (‘21) reflected on his experience getting takeout. “There were one way doors and restrictions on movement in the building, but besides a plexiglass screen in front of the entrance to 503 Sushi, there wasn’t much different between the current pickup process and the pre-COVID-19 process.”
Similar to restaurants, coffee shops in Salem are enforcing new policies. Ike Box permits takeout from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Governor’s Cup Coffee Roasters is one of the few cafes that does not have dine-in or delivery services, but still permits takeout.
Regardless of a student’s preferred method of enjoying Salem’s restaurants, wearing a mask in public is required by Oregon’s state law for all individuals who are able to do so. Delivery and takeout are always an option during COVID-19, but those seeking in-person dining still have ways to do so if they feel safe and are able to properly distance themselves from others.