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Lewiston-Clarkston community group helps eateries ‘elevate’ above pandemic

The owners of Roosters Waterfront Restaurant, pictured here in Clarkston, Wash., have managed to keep the doors open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, especially now with the help of Elevate LCV.  (Courtesy of Roosters Waterfront Restaurant)
The owners of Roosters Waterfront Restaurant, pictured here in Clarkston, Wash., have managed to keep the doors open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, especially now with the help of Elevate LCV. (Courtesy of Roosters Waterfront Restaurant)
By Kathy Hedberg Lewiston Tribune

Against all odds, Sam and Marla Worrell, owners of Roosters Waterfront Restaurant in Clarkston, have managed to keep the doors open throughout this pandemic.

Like most eateries in Washington, the Worrells have been unable to have in-person dining because of COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Gov. Jay Inslee. That’s not likely to change until at least Jan. 11, when the governor announced he would reassess the virus spread situation.

“We were hoping for different guidance than that,” Sam Worrell said. “I’m not surprised. It seems to be the way he thinks.”

Worrell, who has owned Roosters since 1997, said earlier in the pandemic the restaurant was hopeful to be able to offer in-person dining and set up to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing guidelines. But Inslee’s restrictions superseded the CDC rules. In December, Worrell said, business dropped 82% from a year ago.

“We’re just keeping open to keep our name active in the community and to keep a couple of workers that didn’t qualify for unemployment … (on the payroll) to generate some hours for them. So you’re working with a reduced staff and reduced inventories and trying to second -guess what you’re going to be able to sell.

“We’ll make it,” Worrell said, “but it ain’t pretty. When you’re doing 20% of your (usual) sales, we’re living off our savings account.”

Currently Roosters is open for takeout orders only from 3 to 7 p.m. That’s gotten a boost recently from a newly formed community group called Elevate LCV (as in Lewiston-Clarkston Valley).

Scott Shelden, a Clarkston chiropractor, said he became aware of the disparity between restaurants in Clarkston that were unable to have in-person dining and those across the river in Lewiston where folks can continue to have sit-down meals.

“Initially we were going to buy gift cards but we were trying to figure out how to do more than gift cards,” Shelden said of the effort to support Clarkston restaurants during the restrictions.

“When you live in a border town like Lewiston and Clarkston people were jumping over to Lewiston … and we did the same thing,” Shelden said. “We didn’t realize how much businesses were being affected. Some restaurants on the Washington side were getting hit really hard – harder than we imagined.”

Shelden and others formed Elevate LCV in early December and began collecting donations from businesses and individuals to sponsor gift cards and discounts at a number of Clarkston restaurants. The effort went viral and within a couple of weeks the Elevate LCV Facebook page picked up around 1,500 followers and more than 10,000 likes.

An online donation site was set up at venmo@elevateLCV for people to contribute to the cause.

Shelden said businesses all over – including some in Lewiston and even Winchester – have pitched in. The money allows the group to feature various restaurants and offer discounts of $10 or more for takeout orders.

“So people want to get involved,” Shelden said. “They’re not necessarily business owners, but they see what’s happening and they want to be part of it.”

Shelden said now that the momentum has started, businesses reach out to him offering to donate money, which is deposited in the Venmo account and then targeted for a particular restaurant.

“We’re headed to a different restaurant every day,” Shelden said. “We’ve kind of hit a nerve and that’s why we named it ‘Elevate LCV.’ We didn’t want it to be a one-time deal. We’re hoping to build on it with like-minded people that are wanting to do some good and (hope) that this continues to grow.”

“The part I really like is that restaurants get to have face-to-face interactions with the businesses that sponsored them. It makes it a little more real where that money comes from.”

Anyone wishing more information about the project may check out the Elevate LCV Facebook page or call Shelden at (208) 790-1750.

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