When the Covid-19 pandemic shut down restaurants and bars throughout Oregon, Bargeway Pub & Catering in The Dalles was among the many "nonessential" establishments closing their doors. Live music, restaurant dining, happy hours and more fell abruptly silent.

Yet their doors didn’t stay closed long — emergency personnel at medical facilities, fire stations and elsewhere still needed to eat, and Bargeway co-owners Stephen and Stacey Kane landed a contract to prepare and deliver meals to 450 essential workers in The Dalles.

The contract provided a critical lifeline early in the pandemic.

The Kane’s were able to hire back much of their staff, and despite good unemployment benefits, the bulk of them returned. “Working the first responder thing, we brought our staff back. They all came back, they take pride in their work here,” Stephen explained. Which was a good thing for the Kanes. “It takes a team to run one of these places,” he said.

With the catered meals out the door each morning at 11 a.m., the Kanes began turning their attention to the future, a future now dictated by the virus.

“We saw the writing on the wall, and invested in the outside area to stay ahead of it,” Stephen said.

The Bargeway can now seat 130 people outside and 45 inside, all with social distancing.

The outdoor seating area looks out over a basalt cliff to the Columbia River, bordering the Riverfront trail. The seating area now hosts new, expandable, outdoor stage. Small tables are arranged along a concrete pad next to the trail, in the grass and on a patio next to the building. Picnic tables were made available for larger groups. “We have lots of space for social distancing, there’s lots of space out there,” Stephen said.

As the county began to reopen, diners began to return and the pub came quietly back to life.

A Sunday brunch was added — they have featured crab, smoked salmon and “a bunch of other stuff” on the menu — and a Saturday lunch as well. Both weekend days feature live music in addition to food and beverages.

And recently, small bands began breaking the evening silence.

Bands take to the outdoor stage every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Performances are currently featuring local musicians Nolan Hare and Ben Blakely, or Kenny Olsen and Jeff Carrell, as well as Al Hare. But music of some kind can be heard Wednesday through Sunday. Family-friendly, waterfront dining and music is the focus until 10 p.m., Stephen said. There is no cover charge.

Members of the staff—they currently employ around 30, many of them part-time students—have their temperatures checked each day as they arrive for work, and wear masks.

In addition to the pub, Bargeway has a second dining area, indoors and out, for private events. That space seats 100 inside and 200 out.

Customers also wear masks as they move about the pub. “If they forget their mask, we give them one,” Stephen said. He noted that his work takes him all over town, and he finds people in The Dalles are doing a pretty good job of wearing masks.

The Kanes are pleased with the results of their work so far. “There is no place like this around, even in Portland,” Stephen said.

Patrons can dine inside or out, and many of them prefer the new outdoor space, said Stephen. “People are more comfortable outside right now,” he said, and seem to be enjoying the experience like they haven’t been able to do since the pandemic upended their daily lives.

“People feel pretty normal out here,” he said with satisfaction.

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