Efforts under way to raise funds for businesses shuttered by COVID

Efforts are under way to provide opportunities for the community to help two local businesses that have been forced to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Both Steelhead Fitness, at 1295 Main St., and the Rio Theatre, at 1439 Main St., have been closed since Nov. 16, after Gov. Kate Brown announced a freeze in response to rising COVID numbers in the state.

Last Thursday, Dec. 17, Brown announced a 60-day extension, through March 3, of her state-of-emergency declaration due to COVID-19. Brown’s executive order had been set expire on Jan. 2, 2021.

According to the governor’s office, 29 of Oregon’s 36 counties, including Linn and those surrounding it, are in the extreme risk category through the end of the month.

The Oregon Health Authority examines and publishes county data weekly, and county risk levels are reassigned every two weeks. The first week’s data will provide a “warning week” to prepare counties for potential risk level changes. The next assignment of risk levels will take effect Jan. 1, according to the OHA.

Every risk classification has different restrictions on businesses and other organizations. As counties’ risk categories drop, restrictions ease slightly in the size of social gatherings allowed, what kinds of services can be offered at eating and drinking establishments, capacity limits in retail stores and malls, entertainment establishments, churches, etc.

For instance, the extreme-risk category prohibits operation of gyms and theaters, but when a county hits the high-risk or lower levels, capacities ranging from 25 to 50 percent and 50 to 100 people are allowed.

The metrics that apply to Linn County for each category are: Extreme Risk – 200 or more COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population over 14 days; High Risk – 100 to 200 cases per 100,000 over 14 days; Moderate Risk – 50 to 100 cases per 100,000 over 14 days; and Lower Risk – less than 50 cases per 100,000 over 14 days (this also is the point at which students would be allowed to return to public schools.

Meanwhile, as the theater and gym have stayed shuttered to the public due to the state mandates, the following efforts are aimed at helping owners Dave Bauer of Steelhead and Thomas Baham of the Rio stay afloat.

Rio Theatre

The Rio Theater has been a community institution since 1950, and has recently undergone a beautiful transformation under the ownership of Thomas Baham. However, it is six months behind on its mortgage due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closures and limitations that have come along with it. That’s why Kim Armstrong started a GoFundMe to support the theater and get Baham on his feet.

“Thomas called me and asked if I had any ideas. He asked for some help,” Armstrong said. She started the fundraiser and within 24 hours had raised $5,000. “Our community is amazing!”

“The deficit right now is a six month mortgage. And that’s $21,000 So ultimately, that’s our goal,” she added.

Whatever funding level is reached, Baham will be able to pull from the funds to try to save his business.

The GoFundMe says the Rio “brings a sense of pride to our whole community. It shines bright on the outside most evenings and the updates and comfort on the inside are top of the line!”

“ The Rio Theatre is 6 months behind on the mortgage and they need to pay this shortfall by mid-January. While they have applied for and received some grants, it is just not enough.”

By Monday, Dec. 21, the GoFundMe had reached just over $9,000, with $12,000 to go to meet its goal.

Supporters can donate at gofundme.com/f/save-the-rio-theatre. Gift Certificates are also for sale at Dan Dee Sales.

Give Steelhead A Lift Run/Walk

This strictly unofficial, informal fun run and walk is being planned for the morning of New Year’s Day, to which participants are asked to bring financial contributions to help the gym meet expenses until it can re-open.

Although the courses for the 5K run and 2-mile walk will be marked, participants will be entirely on their own. The point of the event is to give participants a chance to start the new year off with some exercise and to show support for the gym.

The event starts at 10 a.m. at Weddle Bridge in Sankey Park. Miriam Swanson, an instructor at the gym, will lead a short aerobics session for those who want to warm up or knock off some rust. A bucket will be available to collect donations, which will be delivered to the gym by organizers Scott Swanson and Ken Bronson.

The start will be staggered and participants are asked to wear masks or other protective shields for at least the first 100 meters of the event in which they are participating, as well as engage in other COVID precautions – distancing, not sharing water bottles, etc.

There will be no official timing, no medals or prizes, no real start or finish line. A raffle will be held, with all proceeds going to Steelhead. This is strictly a fun run. Well-behaved dogs, on leash, are welcome to participate. A brief aerobics warm-up session will be held prior to the start of the run/walk.

Free Supplies for Businesses

The City of Sweet Home is offering personal protective equipment free to local businesses, courtesy of the state of Oregon.

Items available include thermometers, sanitizing supplies and alcohol disinfectant, and vinyl gloves.

To order supplies, visit http://www.sweethomeor.gov/ced/webform/local-business-covid-19-personal-protective-equipment, or, for more information, or contact Blair Larsen at (541) 367-8113 or

[email protected].

– The New Era Staff