Here are some helpful updates for Bend Business Owners, offered by Ben Hemson, business advocate for the City of Bend.
Yesterday, July 1, a requirement to wear masks indoors while in public went into effect statewide. Like other statewide mandates you’ve had to confront since the pandemic began, you’ve been asked to digest plenty of information and implement changes in a very short amount of time. I’ll try to answer some of the key questions that have come up below.
Please read on for details on the mask requirement, options to expand outdoor seating or display areas for your business and an update on federal business assistance funding.
What Does the Statewide Mask Requirement Mean for you?
To put it simply, all indoor spaces, no matter if they’re publicly or privately owned, now require customers, visitors and staff to wear face masks, face coverings or face shields.
For certain businesses, like salons, this doesn’t represent much of a change. For many of you, masks were encouraged but not required before yesterday. The state provides some exceptions to the mask requirement:
- For customers while eating or drinking
- For employees, contractors or volunteers who are not interacting with the public and can maintain at least six feet of distance from others
- For customers and visitors engaged in an activity that makes wearing a mask not feasible, such as strenuous physical exercise. In these cases, customers must be able to maintain at least six feet of distance from others
- Children under 2 are not required to wear a mask, children between two and 12 years old are not required to wear a mask but it is recommended.
As a business owner, you must provide a mask, shield or face covering for your employees. This is not a requirement for customers, although the state does encourage providing disposable face coverings for customers if possible.
If you need help securing PPE for your employees, we may have opportunities to access masks and/or face shields at no cost. Please reach out to me directly with information on your needs by hitting reply to this message or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a business owner, you’re likely wondering how this requirement will be enforced. Like most of the changes you’ve been asked to help implement, the first goal is educating the public about the rules. Businesses must post signage informing customers of the new requirement (available here) and alert customers upon entry that they must wear a mask.
I realize this new requirement puts your staff on the front lines of enforcing a rule that some folks may not support. I’ve spoken with a number of business owners who have had difficult interactions with customers who’ve refused to wear a mask. If you have issues with a customer who refuses to leave or wear a mask after being informed of the requirement, local law enforcement could ticket them for trespassing. In this case, a call to the Police Department’s non-emergency line could be warranted. Should a situation escalate to the point where your staff feel like their safety is being threatened, please call 911.
As a business owner, failing to comply with the mask requirement also exposes you to potential OSHA violations and hefty fines. Police Department, Code Enforcement and Economic Development staff continue to meet weekly with enforcement agencies, including OSHA, to discuss complaints. I can assure you that there are community members and visitors who are actively sharing concerns about businesses and requesting surprise inspections.
You can find the State’s full guidance for businesses here. As with the other challenges we’ve confronted together since the beginning of this pandemic, you likely have questions and concerns that you aren’t sure how to address. Please reach out by hitting reply to this message or by calling our business assistance line at 541-323-7151 and I’ll work to get you an answer.
Finding More Outdoor Space for Your Business
The indoor mask requirement coupled with capacity restrictions that are likely to continue until a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19 is ready, may mean you need more space to operate your business. The City of Bend has a few options available if you’d like to shift some of your operations outside:
- Sidewalk café extensions: Available to businesses in the downtown district who would like to add seating in front of neighboring businesses. This requires the approval of your neighbors.
- Use of private parking lots: If your business has a private or shared parking lot, you may be able to use up to 33 percent of your available space for dining, carry out or pickup or retail sales.
- Accessing city streets and alleys: At their meeting on June 3, the Bend City Council approved the creation of a program that would allow businesses to expand into the City of Bend right of way (streets and alleys). This program is designed to be accessible to businesses across town, but potential closures must be business initiated.
In each case, businesses participating in these programs must abide by current sanitation and spacing requirements and provide documentation around liability and insurance.
You can find more information about applying for each of these options at bendoregon.gov/reopening. Applications are free, if you have questions please reach out to me.
We continue to be on the lookout for additional funding assistance opportunities for businesses. I’ll have some more information for you in next week’s message. In the meantime, there is still funding available for federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans. If you haven’t already accessed these funds, please reach out to your financial institution or our partners at the Small Business Development Center at COCC to see if you may qualify.
You’re each trying to navigate the shifting requirements being placed on your business in an uncertain and often frustrating time. I’m always here to help you work through the issues you’re facing but know that ultimately it’s the hard work and sacrifice made by you and your employees that will allow for the short term preservation of our economy as we look toward the recovery that is surely in our future.
Thank you, as always, for doing business in Bend.