Hello, I must be going: once again we are forced to close the Clinton Street Theater indefinitely.
Oregon's governor has declared that 15 counties, including Multnomah, will be placed in the "extreme risk" category due to the rising hospitalization of Covid-19 patients.
As of Friday, April 30, all "indoor entertainment" businesses will only be allowed six customers at a time. Additionally, all sales of food and drink are prohibited. This category includes aquariums, indoor theaters/arenas/concert halls, indoor gardens, and indoor museums.
Frankly, we see this latest directive as a despicably spineless and dishonest form of political theater, our least favorite genre of entertainment. As my father would say when I came home past curfew spouting wild excuses, “Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”
These restrictions sidestep controversy by not admitting the obvious: Governor Brown is shutting down these businesses completely. I would challenge anyone to explain to me how ANY business in this category could make one thin dime remaining open for only six customers. For most of us, it is more expensive to open for six people than to close. But now, I guess no one can technically state that our businesses were completely shut down again in Oregon.
These restrictions are based more on politics than on data. As far as we know, there have not even been anecdotal reports of events at any of these venues causing a "super spreader" event, not in Oregon or elsewhere. Since we have long abandoned any meaningful attempt at contact tracing, there is no actual data available to support any such claim.
These restrictions make no sense scientifically because they lack precision and scale. It does make some sense to limit venues to a percentage of their capacity to decrease chances of transmission. But what is the logic of coming up with a single static number for a huge range of circumstances? This treats a small multiplex screening room for 30, our auditorium with a capacity of 250, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and the Moda Center as if they all have an identical risk with an audience of six. This would only allow the Portland Art Museum, with over 240,000 sq. ft. spread through several buildings, the same six customers at a time.
These restrictions favor groups with more political sway over others. No one is too interested in the welfare of entertainment venues at this time, and they do not represent a significant employment category. But if the ban is based on a medical imperative, then why are the following businesses all treated differently?
- Restaurants cannot offer indoor dining, and their outdoor dining capacity is set at 50 (safer outside, yes, but what if those 50 people are all using one indoor bathroom on premises?).
- Indoor retail stores and malls can operate at 50% capacity (that can mean a large number of people in a very confined space, for ANY type of store).
- Religious groups can have a maximum 25% occupancy or 100 people total, whichever is smaller. (There have been numerous documented incidents where religious gatherings have been "super spreader" events). At the bottom of the chart, they also added, “Capacity limits for faith institutions are recommended only.”
These restrictions allow Brown to claim she is doing something positive to answer the alarming virus surge, though the results will be impossible to measure. Sure, the numbers may come down again over the next month due to a variety of factors, but there will be no way of knowing if this shutdown had any effective influence.
Further proof of the absurdity of this latest directive is found in this statement: "counties will stay in Extreme Risk for a maximum of three weeks, and will be able to move to a lower risk level sooner if their COVID-19 case rates are brought down...."
A maximum of three weeks? With a surge that has lasted almost two months, how can there be a clear date for the end of this shutdown, if it is based on scientific data? If it is necessary now because of the numbers, wouldn't ending the ban solely depend upon reaching clearly defined targets?
Now, anyone that knows our theater understands that we are NOT reactionary “personal freedom above all else” people. We have consistently followed all public health directives; in fact, we have consistently been MORE restrictive than allowed. We started back to operation slowly last month, allowing theater rentals for groups of 12 (that's less than 5% of our capacity, and we can make that number work). We had just started scheduling public shows, still staying well below our allowed limit, selling only 20% capacity. We’ve required masks at all times, we’ve invested in an HVAC ionization system to help purify the air, we’ve enforced social distancing.
Governor Brown stated, "The vast majority of Oregon businesses have followed our health and safety guidance to protect Oregonians from COVID-19, even though doing so has come with an economic cost."
We do NOT believe we have received any particularly useful guidance from the state during the past 14 months. We did shut down when we were asked. We were NEVER given any clear and practical information or any other help about weathering that shutdown or starting back up safely from any Oregon government entity. Everything we’ve done to date has been pieced together from a variety of other online health and industry sources.
Once again, we are not against doing our part to protect the community; our objections are to the logic and purpose of this particular plan. We will comply with the current directive in the only way that makes any sense, by closing our doors.
We only wish that our Governor would have the courage to admit that she is asking us, once again, to shut down for an indefinite period.