Newly announced restrictions on indoor restaurant spaces defy logic, data, and goals designed to reduce virus spread in Oregon
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 6, 2020 (Updated 11.9.20)
Jason Brandt, President & CEO, ORLA
503.302.5060 | JBrandt@OregonRLA.org
Wilsonville, OR– Today, the Oregon Governor’s office announced new restrictions on restaurants located in specific counties. The restrictions take effect next week and further reduce the total number of people, including staff, that can be on premise. The new restrictions for specific counties will change the current maximum of 100 people indoors and reduce the maximum to 50 people indoors. In addition, group dining at restaurants in affected counties will be reduced to a maximum of 6 people. The two-week pause applies to Multnomah, Marion, Jackson, Malheur and Umatilla counties. On Monday, Nov. 9, four more counties were added to the pause list; Washington, Clackamas, Baker and Union counties.
“We have said all along we were going to follow the data as a state and we have some of the most comprehensive, transparent data in the country being provided by the Oregon Health Authority in their weekly COVID reports,” said Jason Brandt, President & CEO for the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association. “These new restrictions do not follow the data available to us. This action will directly result in more Oregonians interacting in uncontrolled, private environments as opposed to restaurants with controlled, regulated environments.”
The Oregon Health Authority’s weekly COVID report is published mid-week with the latest edition released on Wednesday, November 4. A copy can be obtained through the following link:
The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA) remains committed to thorough weekly reviews of any workplace outbreaks connected to the industry. In the latest edition, only 2 foodservice locations are identified out of approximately 75 workplace outbreaks across the state. The workplace outbreak section can be found starting on Page 22 with details included in Table 7 of the weekly report.
“We are one of the largest employers in Oregon and the efforts being undertaken by our operators across the state is nothing short of monumental. The weekly data continues to prove the importance of controlled, regulated environments like restaurants as an alternative to private gatherings,” said Brandt. “We are literally making decisions that could drive us in the wrong direction as a state.”
“We have a role to play in providing safe alternatives to private settings. We need more opportunity to be a part of the solution.”
Early in the COVID-19 crisis, the Governor’s office convened the Coronavirus Economic Advisory Council, but the council was disbanded months ago with no alternative for collaboration amongst industry leaders and health experts. ORLA is recommending an economic advisory council be reestablished immediately to assist the Governor’s office with the intelligence needed to understand the wide-ranging impacts to local economies triggered by new regulations.
“There will be thousands of operators across the state who will be unable to comprehend an additional arbitrary limit on the total number of people they can have indoors with no consideration given to the square footage available,” said Brandt. “We will have less paychecks to provide to struggling Oregonians, less opportunity for Oregonians to take a ‘mental health break’ in controlled restaurant environments, and we will drive more people to unregulated, private gatherings leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.”
Restaurants able to physically distance guests by party with at least the recommended six feet between tables, should be allowed to do so without arbitrary restrictions. For establishments with a larger footprint, capping capacity to 50 or 100 people when they can safely seat more means robbing them of the opportunity to keep people employed and keep Oregonians from struggling more than they already have this year.
With some reports suggesting as many as 85% of independent restaurants will close without some form of financial assistance or less arbitrary regulation from government, further reducing restaurants’ ability to generate revenue makes that figure seem even more likely.
ORLA is creating an online interface to track Oregonian paychecks lost from restaurants located in counties where the additional restrictions will take effect. Operators will share their business name, their county location, and the number of paychecks lost due to the new restrictions.
“We believe wholeheartedly in collaboration and partnership and our industry must continue to do whatever we can to mitigate virus spread and support the heroes in the health care sector who are putting their lives on the line to save their fellow Oregonians,” said Brandt. “We have a role to play in providing safe alternatives to private settings. We need more opportunity to be a part of the solution.”
The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association is the leading business association for the foodservice and lodging industry in Oregon, which is comprised of approximately 10,000 foodservice locations and 2,000 lodging establishments with a workforce prior to COVID of 183,191. Roughly 30%, or 55,000 jobs, remain lost in the industry as a result of the COVID pandemic.