[May 4, 2021] - Some Good News to Share
The announcement released by Governor Brown today provides good news to the 15 counties currently in the Extreme Risk category as all 15 return to High Risk this Friday, May 7, and resume indoor dining. Governor Brown stated, “Based on today’s numbers, I am keeping my commitment to Oregonians. Beginning Friday, all counties in Extreme Risk will return to High Risk. With Oregonians continuing to get vaccinated each week, my expectation is that we will not return to Extreme Risk again for the duration of this pandemic."
COVID-19 closures and restrictions on indoor dining have been clobbering Oregon’s restaurants, bars and hospitality sector. The constant yo-yoing of closures and restrictions targeted at restaurants has made it impossible for these local businesses to plan during a time when they’re already struggling to survive. This is a positive development for these local businesses that are part of our livelihoods but they still need stability and predictability to continue to survive.
Thank you for supporting your local restaurants on one of the biggest days of the year, Mother's Day.
[April 30, 2021] - ORLA Update: Letter from the Counties, OSHA Rule, What ORLA's "Doing,” and the RRF
ORLA Joins County Commissioners in Letter to the Governor - Earlier this week, Associated Oregon Counties (AOC) submitted a letter to Governor Brown asking her to remove state mandated business restrictions. The letter was signed by AOC, ORLA and close to 80 county commissioners from across the state. Read the County Commissioners’ letter and the Governor's response letter here.
What’s ORLA “Doing?” - ORLA’s latest action Alert email was sent out to members earlier this week. Included in the communication are ways for our members to mobilize, participate in an online poll from OregonLive, flyers for businesses to mobilize customers and employees, and all the information we’re responsible for getting out so the industry knows what changes they need to make with the new restrictions and timelines associated with them. If you know of anything else we could be doing on top of what’s currently going on, please don’t hesitate to share feedback.
OSHA Update and Letter - The expiration of the OSHA temporary rule relating to Covid is here next week. The purpose of this letter is to request formal hearings under ORS 183.335 to provide the Legislative Assembly with the opportunity to review OR-OSHA’s proposed permanent rule related to COVID-19, and to determine its compliance with the legislation from which the proposed adoption, amendment or repeal results. It is our expectation that the practical impacts of this letter are as follows:
Workers? Where are They? - This will be an ongoing debate about how many of our former workers are sitting on the sidelines versus how many have left for other jobs (think distribution facilities like Amazon, manufacturing facilities, etc.). See the Oregon Employment Department’s latest take on where we are and what they can decipher from the data if you’re interested in digging deeper.
RRF Grant Application - The Restaurant Revitalization Fund application process opens this Monday, May 3. If you’re applying (20 locations or less to be eligible), get your paperwork in order this weekend! Everything you need to prepare if right here – we did a webinar on this with SBA, NRA and a few other states yesterday:
[April 27, 2021] - 15 Counties Moving to Extreme Risk
Today’s announcement by Governor Brown will result in yet another round of indoor dining closures in many counties across Oregon. As kids continue gathering back at school and cases continue to be tracked back to places of worship, education institutions, manufacturing facilities, private social gatherings and health care settings, somehow it has been decided Oregon’s restaurants are responsible and therefore must close indoors in specific counties.
We remain dismayed by the ongoing fallacies in decision making taking place at the highest levels of our state government. Oregon’s hospitality industry has already done so much to help mitigate virus spread and the latest announcement feels to many of us as one round of restrictions too many – especially with highly effective vaccines readily available for Oregonians.
As of Friday, April 30, 15 counties will be moving backwards into Extreme Risk and indoor dining shutdowns by order of the Governor. The the next county assessments are expected on Tuesday, May 4. You can view the latest county by county data sets here.
You can make a difference in the following ways to make sure your story is shared with those responsible for implementing ongoing restrictions on your livelihood and the livelihoods of your teammates:
[April 19, 2021] - RRF Sample Application Now Available, Media Outreach on Critical Issues
SBA Sample Restaurant Grant Application Now Online - The SBA released technical guidance and a sample application for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The SBA will not begin accepting applications until later this month, but the release of these documents allows restaurant operators to see the application and begin organizing documents. The National Restaurant Association has prepared an excellent FAQ document to provide support for restaurant owners. It will be updated later this week to reflect the specifics of this application. ORLA is working with the National Restaurant Association on a webinar to answer your questions in the coming weeks.
More Closures in March - We hit the media with 2 press releases this week. The first was focused on our reality that even though we all might be tired of Covid, the pandemic is certainly taking its toll on our industry and will continue to do so. In other words, don’t forget about the challenges remaining in the hospitality industry and please have patience as we struggle with a workforce shortage crisis within the pandemic. That press release sent out last week can be accessed here: 190 More Permanent Restaurant Closures in March.
Press Release on UI Tax Relief - House Bill 3389, our unemployment insurance tax relief bill (and one of our top priorities in the 2021 legislative session) moved out of the House and to the Senate on Thursday last week. We of course want the deferral and forgiveness components for your 2021 tax hikes improved beyond the current deferral and forgiveness levels. We will be pushing for that in the Senate. As mentioned in last week's press release, the big win in the current version of this bill is getting all your unemployment tax rate levels back to your 2020 levels for 2022, 2023, and 2024 which is a very big deal. You can view our press on this here: More Relief Anticipated for Oregon Hospitality.
Business Coalition on Federal Revenue - There are a few issues (OSHA regulations and American Rescue Plan dollars from the federal government coming to Oregon) which represent opportunities for ORLA to partner with a broader coalition of business partners working hard to keep Oregon’s economy moving. Read our latest coalition letter on the importance of the dollars coming to Oregon and how those dollars can be strategically used to help bolster Oregon’s economic recovery. There are a great deal of competing priorities for federal funds and Oregon’s business coalition wants to make sure the opportunities for economic investments are heard and have an opportunity to be considered by the Governor’s Office and Oregon’s legislature.
[April 12, 2021] - The Latest on Vaccine Appointments and Self-Service Regulations
Vaccination Intelligence - We've been in touch with Salem Health’s Chief Project Officer on Covid vaccines a few times this past week to make sure we are doing everything we can to connect interested frontline workers with their vaccine appointments. Approximately 25% of the vaccines being administered at the Oregon State Fairgrounds by Salem Health are for people outside the Salem area and their process seems to be dialed in. If you are still working to connect your staff with a vaccine appointment take advantage of these steps.
Self-Service Shenanigans - ORLA continues to push for changes to our self-service restrictions (i.e. frozen dessert self-service locations / salad bars / self-service continental breakfasts in hotels). This week, the CDC came out with new information stating the risk of transmitting Covid from surfaces is 1 in 10,000. In an email communication with the Governor’s Office and Dr. Sidelinger, we asked again that they please take another look at this restriction given the CDC article. It appears the new CDC article may help in providing some flexibility based on their response today. We’ll keep you posted on any changes.
Redistricting Timeline Extended for Oregon - There is a new deadline for our state leaders to finalize the process of drawing the lines associated with each legislative district in Oregon. The new deadline is September 27, 2021 and will provide the extra time needed to incorporate the 2020 Census changes in Oregon. View the press release regarding the Oregon Supreme Court decision.
[April 9, 2021] - Updates from Your State Association
ORLA Joins Business Community on Priorities for the American Rescue Plan Revenues - The $6 billion in federal aid expected by state and local governments in Oregon represents an unprecedented transfusion of cash that could prove transformational – if it is invested wisely. ORLA joins a coalition of business leaders urging the Governor and state leaders to consider the investments in three parts: 1) Near-term for programs that assist individuals, families, businesses and nonprofits still struggling financially; 2) Longer-term for substantial investments in carefully selected projects that will bolster our economic base and yield returns to Oregonians for decades to come, and 3) A contingency set-aside for unforeseen challenges in the next few years. Read the letter.
OLCC Approves “Floor Pricing" - Despite much testimony in opposition, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) approved a floor pricing proposal for distilled spirits which increases the price of the lowest priced spirits sold in Oregon liquor stores. ORLA joined other business groups affiliated with alcohol licensees testifying that floor pricing jeopardizes the hospitality industry’s fragile recovery. “Now is not the time to make it more difficult for bars and restaurants to do business and serve customers. Let’s build on the good will of the accomplishments of the past year,” said Greg Astley from the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association.
[April 5, 2021] - Vaccine Toolkit; Preparing Your Frontline Workers
Last week the Governor announced frontline workers (including all hospitality workers, as defined by the CDC) and their families are eligible for a vaccine starting April 5. We want to make sure you are aware of the resources available to help you communicate important information about vaccines to your workers, and to give them information about how to find locations and appointments.
Here are some key resources to share with your employees:
Find more resources and an Employer Toolkit on ORLA's COVID-19 Resources & Announcements page.
[April 1, 2021] - OSHA Permanent Rule Response from ORLA
ORLA alongside other business groups has been actively engaged in the rulemaking process for workplace safety in Covid times and Oregon OSHA has been one of the more aggressive OSHA agencies across the country in trying to create new rules. Earlier today, ORLA submitted our response which is in line with ongoing coordination amongst other state business groups that have been actively engaged in the rulemaking process since the beginning of the year. Read the official ORLA response to the proposal to create a permanent COVID rule that would need to be adhered to by all workplaces for an undetermined amount of time.
[March 31, 2021] - Business Coalition Unites to Push for Changes to OSHA Rules
The Oregon Legislative Session continues but in the past few weeks there have been a few victories worth noting as we fight on the frontlines with other legislative bills that remain alive for consideration. On the good news front, House Bill 3296 which would have exponentially increased taxes on alcohol is no longer viable. The broader beverage alliance guarding against increased taxes at this time remains on watch for other proposals that could emerge. But for now, a special thanks to ORLA members and the broader beverage industry for impressive mobilization that helped derail the tax proposal.
In other news, a broad coalition of business associations have joined together in submitting the following response to Oregon OSHA’s proposed permanent rule relating to Covid. ORLA continues to be actively involved with other groups to make sure the permanent rule is rescinded at the conclusion of the state of emergency. The reason a permanent rule is even in the mix after the adoption of a temporary rule approximately 4 months ago is due to a state law making temporary rules active for a maximum of 180 days. Since the Covid health emergency has lasted well beyond the temporary timeframe, a permanent rule is being pursued but not without strong advocacy from business groups to make sure the permanent rule does in fact expire once the Covid health emergency in effect from Governor Brown is behind us.
Other important developments include a public hearing to bring more relief to our industry as well as others dealing with spiking unemployment insurance tax rates. ORLA will be actively engaged alongside our members for a public hearing scheduled for Thursday, April 1 at 1pm for House Bill 3389. The bill introduced in the past few weeks needs some stronger relief for hard hit industries like hospitality but the foundation of the bill is in good shape for potential amendments that could make a real difference for Oregon’s hospitality industry. ORLA will also be watching the progress of another bill we support – House Bill 3177 which is scheduled for a work session on Thursday, April 1 at 8am. Many of you took action on the bill which would put power back in the hands of Oregon’s legislature to determine appropriate economic sanctions for industries reeling from the economic impacts of Covid including foodservice and fitness establishments.
To see the latest activity on legislative bills, visit ORLA's Legislative Bill Tracking page.
[March 18, 2021] - Oregon's UI Trust Fund Balance / Taxing Forgiven PPP Loans? / It's a Warning Week
It’s a very busy week in the Oregon Legislature. Here are the latest updates overall at the association. A more detailed Advocacy Update will be sent to ORLA members soon from our Director of Government Affairs Greg Astley. As always reach out with any questions or comments.
Oregon’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund Balance
Recently the United States Chamber of Commerce pulled together the fund balances available to every state to pay unemployment insurance benefits. You might be surprised to hear like we were that Oregon has the best funded trust fund in the nation. This isn’t based on population or some per capita assessment. Take a look at the UI Trust Fund Comparison spreadsheet. My favorite new line to use is “After paying out benefits to unemployed Oregonians through all of 2020, Oregon still has more money in our trust fund right now compared to what California had before Covid even started.” So you may ask, why the egregious increase in our tax rates? We have the same question. ORLA, Oregon Business & Industry, NFIB, and other business partners are working together to solve this problem.
Taxing Forgiven PPP Loans?
You heard that right. Some in the Oregon Legislature thought it would be a good idea to tax your PPP funds. Proposed amendments to House Bill 2457 would have amounted to a surprise tax bill on businesses across Oregon. Our friends at OBI and NFIB rallied the business community to quickly respond with this statement once the amendment was posted and a work session on the bill was cancelled this past Tuesday after the coalition submitted the attached opposition letter. We will keep a watchful eye on future attempts such as this before the legislature adjourns at the beginning of Summer.
It's a Warning Week
While more and more states move to new models of operation of at least 50% capacity statewide for restaurants, Oregon continues to hold on to its county by county risk assessment system. See the latest case counts from Monday’s county by county Oregon Health Authority County Risk Level report. The data that stands out to me in the document is as follows:
[March 12, 2021] - It's a Movement Week; Latest ORLA Press Releases
President Biden’s news last night is a good sign that our vaccination timelines will be moving up and help clear the way for a steady increase in lodging and restaurant business later this spring. This news also assists us in our ambitious lineup of ORLA events: Virtual PAC fundraiser “Bid for a Better Industry” June 16-24), ORLA Open Golf Tournament July 26, Northwest Food Show August 1-2, Play it Fore-Ward for Hospitality August 24, and ORLA Hospitality Conference September 19-20. (View all ORLA events here)
Portland Tourism Improvement District - ORLA’s Portland Lodging Alliance in the past few months has been busy working on a number of challenges facing the Portland market while also deciding to move forward in support of a one percent increase in Portland’s Tourism Improvement District self-assessment. The Tourism Improvement District self-assessment will now be 3 percent instead of 2 percent and will continue to be overseen by a board of lodging operators for investments in lodging industry priorities. Although often reported as a tax increase, it is very different from a tax since all the funds raised are not shared for purposes outside tourism improvement. 100% of the 3 percent TID will continue to go towards tourism investments and should assist the Portland market in their rebound and by extension, Oregon overall. The increase was approved unanimously by the Portland Lodging Alliance group within ORLA. Mike Daley, who serves a dual role on the ORLA Board while also serving as Chair of the Travel Portland Board of Directors has been working incredibly hard in his volunteer roles during a crazy year for the lodging industry. We thank him for keeping the lines of communication open and for facilitating conversations amongst lodging operators so we can plan out our approach to getting things back on track.
It's a Movement Week - Earlier this week, Governor Kate Brown announced the latest round of county movements which directly impact the way in which our members and the industry can operate their businesses. As of today, we have 13 counties in Low Risk (50% indoor capacity for restaurants with no ‘total person cap’ limits and midnight closing time / 50% capacity for indoor pools/hot tubs), 12 counties at Moderate Risk (50% indoor capacity for restaurants or 100 total people indoors including staff, whichever is less and still 11pm closing time / 50% capacity for indoor pools/hot tubs or 100 total people, whichever is less), 9 counties at High Risk (25% indoor capacity for restaurants or 50 people total including staff, whichever is less and 11pm closing time / 25% capacity for indoor pools/hot tubs or 50 people total, whichever is less), and 2 counties still in Extreme Risk (no indoor dining capacity, outdoor seating only if available to the restaurant / no more than 6 people total for indoor pool/hot tub use at a time).
View the latest Google Doc showing all the County Risk Level movement. As a refresher, view the Sector Risk Level Guidance chart which details all the business restrictions in the 4 risk categories.
Latest ORLA Press Releases - This week, ORLA released two press releases. One on industry workforce shortages and one on our desire to see an elimination of the ‘total person caps’ in our risk categories. We are still averaging about 6-12 media engagements per week. Engagements vary depending on the level of interest in the media for a particular theme. As many of you can probably relate to, we had a significant response to our workforce shortage query out to the ORLA membership.
Weekly Advocacy Updates - A special thanks to our Government Affairs Co-Chairs TJ Birkel and Nick Pearson for their ongoing leadership of ORLA’s Government Affairs Committee. Greg Astley, ORLA’s Director of Government Affairs and Bill Perry, ORLA’s contract lobbyist continue to work with our Co-Chairs to hold weekly check-in meetings for interested Government Affairs Committee members on the status of the Oregon Legislative Session. In addition, ORLA is increasing the frequency of our advocacy updates on top of our ongoing bill tracking capability so interested members can keep tabs on the flow of the session.
As always, please reach out to us with any questions.
[March 8, 2021] - American Rescue Plan Passes: Win for Hospitality!
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, including the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), is being sent to President Biden for a signature. Passage of this bill represents an enormous win for the hospitality industry and comes after much collaboration and continued pressure from our national affiliates including the National Restaurant Association, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, and Asian American Hotel Owners Association. ORLA has been working with our national partners to mobilize industry members and contribute to a collective voice on industry-specific assistance needed from the start of the pandemic.
The American Rescue Plan bill includes significant assistance and provisions including:
Read more about the American Rescue Plan.
[Click the "Read More" link for archived blog updates]
[March 6, 2021] - Risk Level Movement Flexibility, Economic Trends
This is a “warning week” for changes to county risk assessments but your association's pressure campaign expressing high levels of concern about the 2-week at a time opening/closing of restaurants appears to have paid off. That and other updates are available for you below.
More ‘Extreme Risk’ Flexibility - As more states move away from capacity restrictions, the west coast continues to be plagued by much more restrictive measures. CA and WA are just a little ahead of Oregon in having more aggressive restriction mandates but all 3 states seem to be falling further behind in their approach to punishing hospitality businesses as a viable strategy to mitigate virus spread. The win this past week will assist counties in the future (starting with the next ‘Movement Week’) that are running the risk of going backwards on case counts. The announcement by the Governor’s office confirms when a county moves out of Extreme Risk restaurants in those counties will now be given 4 weeks before potentially having to shut down indoor dining compared to the 2 week at a time certainty we’ve been living with for quite some time. View the Governor’s press release and ORLA's response–another small win but we all know we need much more to start the long process of getting our industry operators back on track.
Travel Oregon Economic Trends Data - As part of Travel Oregon’s recent State of the Industry virtual event, Adam Sachs, President of Tourism Economics shared a slide deck with some good economic intelligence; see Adam’s slides #6-36. Travel Oregon's own forecast and budget is represented in slides #37-43.
Oregon Tourism Leadership Academy - We’re excited to announce Year Two of the Oregon Tourism Leadership Academy will include a full class of participants when it launches later this summer. We have more applications than spots available in the class so the Advisory Committee will need to make some tough decisions about which applicants are offered one of the twenty slots in the class and which applications are kept on file for Year 3 consideration. The advisory committee will meet this week to review all applications and make some important decisions about the makeup of the Year 2 class. Learn more about OTLA.
[February 26, 2021] - Latest Updates from ORLA
Vaccination Prioritization - ORLA’s focus has been to make sure our frontline staff in the lodging industry (front desk clerks / housekeepers) and restaurant industry (consumer facing employees / kitchen staff) have the opportunity to be included in the next phase as essential workers contributing to our food supply needs and shelter needs. Governor Brown announced today during her press conference that "all other frontline workers as defined by the CDC" will be eligible for a vaccine no later than May 1. What this means is, restaurant, bar and lodging employees without underlying health conditions are eligible on May 1. However, if your hospitality staff have any underlying health conditions and are ages 45 to 64, they are eligible to get in line on March 29.
Testimony on HB 3177 - Thursday morning we had a strong showing of hospitality owners who testified in support of House Bill 3177. The bill would limit the ability of the Governor to impose harsher restrictions on specific industry sectors including food and drink establishments and fitness centers for the remainder of the Covid emergency. The bill has a big uphill climb but the sympathy and response of the committee to the arguments presented by our operators of all shapes and sizes was noteworthy. A special thanks to Greg Astley as our Director of Government Affairs for lining up a dozen restaurant owners to participate in the committee hearing.
Oregon OSHA Proposed Permanent Rule Hearings - OSHA's temporary rule expires on May 4 and since the law does not allow a temporary rule to be extended, Oregon OSHA expects to repeal the permanent rule once it is no longer needed to address the coronavirus pandemic. As a reminder, OSHA is holding hearings or for commenting on the proposed rule. This is an opportunity to share your experiences and perspectives. Virtual public hearings will be held at 10 a.m. Feb. 26, and at 5 p.m. on March 3 and March 4. The comment period will close on April 2. Click here for sample talking points.
Beverage Tax - ORLA is part of the group backed by the Oregon Beverage Alliance opposing the alcohol tax increase proposal. Legislators need to hear from Oregonians in the industry who are driving opportunity and creating good paying jobs in one of the state’s leading economic sectors. These businesses can make a powerful case to legislators about the importance of supporting – not taxing – these vital, job-creators. House Bill 3296 would increase taxes on beer and cider by nearly 3000% and increase taxes on wine by 1700%, making Oregon the highest beer, wine and spirits tax state in the nation. Join the Oregon Beverage Alliance and ask lawmakers to oppose HB 3296. Tell them:Don't Tax My Drink.
[February 19, 2021] - Three Things from Your Association
Warning Week Risk Levels - The latest County Risk Level chart from the Governor’s Office and Oregon Health Authority was released in preparation for next week’s “Movement Week,” whereby additional counties are expected to move into High Risk and lower risk levels to either gain indoor dining back or expand indoor dining they already have. We’re anticipating good news as early as Tuesday from some additional areas of the state including some of our secondary metro areas finally moving out of an Extreme Risk status.
Pacing PPP Funding Against Vaccine Distribution - Earlier this week, ORLA sent a press release out illustrating the use of Round 2 PPP funds against Oregon’s vaccination pace to showcase the importance of big picture thinking. There has been an ongoing process of decision making in a vacuum and it must be recognized that a lack of comprehensive decision making has the potential to plague Oregon’s economic recovery. Read more here.
Reminder About the Employee Retention Tax Credit - A new law makes businesses eligible for an employee retention tax credit, even if they received a PPP loan. For any calendar quarter between March 13 and Dec. 31, 2020, a business with 100 or fewer full-time employees may be able to access the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) of up to $5,000 per employee. Employers need to make sure they do not claim wages that were used for family leave, PPP or other Cares act related credits. Read FAQ.
[February 12, 2021] - Updates from ORLA
Governor’s Office - As of today, 22 of Oregon’s 36 counties have some level of indoor dining open to go with the continued open status of all lodging facilities across the state. The work to improve the operational environment for restaurants does have a positive impact on all our lodging members working hard to entice consumers to join them for overnight stays. Tuesday’s announcement on 10 additional counties opening up including the Portland Metro area resulted in significant media attention. Read our press release reacting to Governor Brown’s announcement.
Oregon Legislature - House Bill 3177 has been officially introduced in our active session of the Oregon Legislature. The bill would bring equity to the business sector and provide additional protections from government restrictions targeted at specific industries including eating and drinking establishments as well as indoor fitness and physical recreation facilities. We will keep you posted on public hearing developments. You can take action now if you have not done so already to ask your legislator to Sponsor the bill.
Mobilization Efforts - In addition to the mobilization effort for HB 3177 we are also promoting the importance of federal action in support of the Unified Restaurants Act. Additional grant relief is needed and is a real possibility for the industry. You can take action here at the federal level. As action alerts are promoted and amplified by our national partners in the lodging industry we will make sure to share those opportunities as well.
Stay informed and ready to take action by signing up for text alerts and announcements relating to our advocacy work on behalf of Oregon's hospitality industry. Text "ORLA" to 52886 or sign up online to become a Hospitality Industry Advocate.
[February 4, 2021] - Latest Updates from Your State Association
Ongoing Governor’s Office Communications
Governor Brown has enlisted her Director of Jobs and Economy Leah Horner and Leah’s Regional Solutions staff to engage our industry as well as other industry groups struggling with the combination of ongoing restrictions and changes in consumer demand. Multiple staff, including ORLA’s regional representatives, have direct communication channels with a multitude of staffers in the Governor’s Office. We fight for changes in metrics, risk levels, and our current 2-week cycle often with the goal of more flexibility and continuity for Oregon’s restaurants (some indoor dining statewide) and lodging establishments.
The Oregon Hospitality Foundation is ready to launch their new safety training videos this coming Monday, February 8. A big thanks to Wendy Popkin, OHF Executive Director, for her work on this project alongside our marketing and communication staff. We are confident the video series, Providing Service While Supporting Safety, will be incredibly helpful to our industry during Covid times. The course has two versions, restaurant and lodging, and both also come with Spanish subtitles. See the course flyer.
ORLA and the Foundation welcome Melinda Casady as our new ProStart and Workforce Coordinator. Melinda graduated from Western Culinary Institute in 1997. She worked ten years in the industry (Fiddleheads, Pazzo’s, Multnomah Athletic Club, and Oritalia being some of the highlights) and finally as a Food & Beverage Director at the Marriott before being called back to Western Culinary Institute Le Cordon Bleu to teach.
Warning Week Data from the Governor’s Office
If this week were a “movement” week, the following counties would have moved out of Extreme Risk and joined 10 other counties in Oregon that currently have indoor dining. There is a chance this coming week numbers hold on case counts and allow some or maybe all of these counties to provide indoor dining once again a week from tomorrow. Watch announcements closely this coming week on Monday/Tuesday for any developments that provide more opportunity for indoor dining as of Friday, February 12. Multnomah and Clackamas counties are really close in the latest data in getting into the “high risk” category.
[January 29, 2021] - ORLA Working to Protect, Promote and Provide Relief for Oregon's Hospitality Industry
Your statewide association has been working tirelessly this past year to advocate on behalf of Oregon's restaurant and lodging industry during the pandemic. ORLA is working to chronicle all the work done for our hospitality industry, providing an ongoing summary of advocacy work at the local, state and federal levels.
For now, take a look at the "ORLA Outcomes" to the right for a quick summary of some of the things ORLA has been fighting for to protect your business and ensure equitable treatment for foodservice and lodging accommodations. Watch for more updates online at OregonRLA.org.
ORLA Seeks Data, Evidence for Ongoing Shutdown - While the Governor’s Jan. 26 announcement provides welcome news for lottery retailers, restaurant operators with functional outdoor dining space, and hotels eager to open indoor pools and hot tubs, these modifications are not assisting operators who lack outdoor dining space.
Data across states with mask mandates shows no correlation between the number of cases and the decisions to close indoor dining. Read more here.
[January 26, 2021] - Updates to County Risk Levels
Governor Kate Brown today announced updates to county risk levels in addition to modified guidance for indoor activities to take effect January 29. Modifications include an allowance for a maximum of six people indoors at facilities over 500 square feet for all indoor activities except dining. Reach out to your regional representative as we await for detailed guidance to be posted on the Coronavirus page.
While the Governor’s announcement today provides welcome news for lottery retailers, restaurant operators with functional outdoor dining space, and hotels eager to open indoor pools and hot tubs, these modifications are not assisting operators who lack outdoor dining space. [See an abbreviated modifications chart from the Governor's Office below; view online here]
Oregon’s aggressive economic restrictions on one of the state’s largest private sector employers continues to lack data to substantiate the disproportionate sacrifices being endured by these small business operators. As ORLA highlights in today's press release, a recent analysis of December data on the status of restaurant closures across states with mask mandates shows no correlation between the number of cases and deaths and the decisions to close indoor dining.
ORLA will continue our call for a reconvened Economic Advisory Council to bring government officials, health advisors, and industry leaders together to find solutions that consider the devastating impacts prolonged restrictions are having on all of Oregon’s hospitality industry.
ORLA will share guidance on the above modifications once available (the Governor's Office stated it would be posted by Jan. 29). Please reach out to your Regional Representative with questions.
[January 22, 2021] - Update from Your Association
As our industry continues to struggle during this pandemic due to several factors contributing to unsustainable operations, ORLA remains steadfast in communicating daily with the Governor's Office on reopening Oregon's hospitality businesses. We have been urging consideration of the following:
With more counties potentially moving into the Extreme Risk category, hospitality businesses can benefit from every bit of flexibility and allowances made possible.
[December 7, 2020] - Congress Must Support Restaurants This Year!
Congress needs to hear from restaurants today as they are in session for only a few days more. If they do not get their job done, restaurants will be in the cold until this February at the earliest. Read the National Restaurant Association's letter to Congress sent today along with the results of their latest survey on the economic health of the industry:
Oregon Findings (full survey results):
• 80% of Oregon restaurant operators say their total dollar sales volume in October was lower than it was in October 2019.
• Overall, sales were down 30% on average.
• 39% of Oregon operators say it is unlikely their restaurant will still be in business six months from now, if there are no additional relief packages from the federal government.
• 88% of Oregon operators say their current staffing level is lower than what it would normally be in the absence of COVID-19.
• 66% of restaurants are currently more than 20% below normal staffing levels.
National Findings (full survey results):
• 110,000 restaurants nationwide are closed… 10,000 more since the last survey in July
• 52% of former owners of shuttered restaurants say they will not return to the industry
• 59% of owners report their costs are going up even as sales are going down
• The average restaurant that is now permanently closed was in business for 16 years in the community
Congress needs to hear from you in these final days of 2020! We're helping the National Restaurant Association put the pressure on Congress to take action for the future of the restaurant industry.
SHARE YOUR VOICE
For months, Congress has been trapped in a political tug-of-war while restaurants continue to go dark. A group of moderate Democrats and Republicans last week unveiled a compromise plan that has brought both parties back to the negotiating table. They are calling for a $909 billion relief bill, including a second round of Paycheck Protection Program grants, which with improvements could provide immediate assistance to restaurants.
We need Congress to pass the Blueprint for Restaurant Revival, but we also need to ensure they at least make a “down payment” on a relief plan before leaving town for the year. Our industry simply cannot wait for relief any longer. Efforts in Washington to find the “perfect” solution are laudable, but the lack of progress in the meantime has led too many operators to give up on the government and close down for good.
Thank you for your continued support!
[December 4, 2020] - Updates from Your Association
ORLA is in active discussions with the Oregon Fire Marshall’s Office (OFMO) to ensure our industry has the guidance necessary to provide safe outdoor dining space. As soon as next week the OFMO will have a new “outdoor checklist” that aligns with Oregon Health Authority guidelines, providing operators with a 'one stop shop' resource to know what they can do with dining outdoors and how to get there. We'll keep in contact with Assistant Chief Deputy Chad Hawkins and the Fire Marshall's Office as they finalize this resource so we can get it posted and out to all operators across the state.
Federal Relief Efforts
Federal grassroots mobilization will be in full force this coming Monday. Momentum is building in DC around the moderates package of $908 billion. Expect a lot of activity next week to step up the pressure campaign on national elected leaders to do something in the few weeks remaining before recess. Our colleague Sean Kennedy provides the latest report through video here: 90 Second Advocacy Update
There's a bit of optimism that Congress will conclude the year with some form of COVID relief. The plan from the moderates continues to be the basis of discussion, likely riding on the end-of-year government spending bill. The National Restaurant Association today circulated a document outlining priorities to the Hill, representing what our industry needs to see in a second round of PPP. As for timing of a deal, in theory current government funding expires next Friday the 11th. An informal deadline of Monday the 14th is emerging and would allow Congress to pass a bill and get home early enough to self-quarantine before Christmas.
[December 1, 2020] - County Statuses Updated for Business Operations Starting Dec. 3
On December 1, the Oregon Health Authority updated their map of Oregon counties with associated risk categories.
Starting Thursday, December 3rd, Oregon counties will be categorized into four different and distinct areas regarding closing times, indoor and outdoor dining allowance and seating capacity.
For counties in the “Extreme” category who can only offer Outdoor Dining, there may be some confusion as to what defines an “outdoor space.”
Based on the latest definition from the Oregon Health Authority, “outdoor space” means an open-air space which may have a temporary or fixed cover, such as an awning or roof, so long as the space has at least 75% of the square footage of its sides open for airflow.
Restaurants will still need to adhere to the other restrictions on outdoor dining which include:
*Closing time excludes take-out and delivery service
[November 25, 2020] - New Developments for Oregon's Hospitality Industry
Earlier today on November 25, Governor Kate Brown announced new standards impacting Oregon’s hospitality industry starting Thursday, December 3. Once the 2-Week Freeze is over on Wednesday, December 2, operators across this state will have different operational guidelines associated with their business location(s).
This new health and safety framework uses four different risk levels for counties based on their level of COVID-19 spread—Extreme Risk, High Risk, Moderate Risk, and Lower Risk—effective December 3.
On Monday, November 30, the Oregon Health Authority will reexamine county data to determine which counties qualify for each risk level on December 3, following the end of the 2-Week Freeze. In each subsequent two-week period, the Oregon Health Authority will examine and publish county data weekly, but county risk levels will not change until the end of the second week. In the first week, counties will be given Warning Week data to prepare for potential risk level changes. In the second week, county risk levels will be updated based on that week’s data. More detailed information will be posted before December 3.
VIEW COUNTY RISK LEVELS
There are significant developments included in today’s announcement for all risk assessment columns ranging from Low Risk to Extreme Risk. Each of the 4 columns provide details for restaurants on how they can operate and ORLA is grateful for the inclusion of outdoor dining in all risk categories as well as an extension of Oregon’s curfew of 10pm to 11pm or Midnight depending on the risk category a county is in. Please review the linked documents and reach out to your Regional Representatives with any questions.
*Note: ORLA remains in contact with the Governor’s Office about the importance of turning on Video Lottery Terminals or VLTs. Once we have clarity about the plan for VLTs we will communicate the news to our Video Lottery Retailers around the state. Lottery revenues provide important revenue for critical state services while also providing much needed revenue for Oregon’s restaurant and bar operators. We remain committed to advocating for the importance of VLTs for both purposes with the ability to wear face coverings at all times while machines are being used by players.
[November 20, 2020] - ORLA and the Restaurant Law Center Sue to Prevent Ongoing Industry Devastation
Hello ORLA Members, Friends, and Colleagues:
In an emergency meeting of the ORLA Board of Directors this week, your state association for the hospitality industry has made the decision to move forward as a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit with the Restaurant Law Center against Kate Brown in her official capacity as Governor of the State of Oregon.
We do not take this stand lightly and we realize the seriousness of fighting for our rights as an industry during an ongoing public health emergency. I want you all to know directly from my office that partnerships and collaboration matter to us – especially with the Governor’s Office and their professional staff. We are taking this action due to ongoing concerns about the way in which decisions are being made as a state in the fight to save lives and mitigate virus spread.
Executive Order 20-65, published online this past Tuesday afternoon, November 17 with an effective date of Wednesday, November 18 implementing a statewide two-week shutdown of indoor and outdoor restaurant dining rooms is rife with inequity.
Every one of us has a leadership role to play. Your friends, family, and professional circles deserve to know more from you as a leader as to how the ongoing health emergency is creating growing inequity in our ability to operate small businesses and keep Oregonians employed.
Of considerable concern is the latest news first reported by KGW earlier this week that the numbers we are using to form the basis for our economic decision making as a state are not accurate. According to KGW, individuals who need multiple Covid tests are only counted once regardless of how many tests they have taken as the crisis continues. The result of that flaw means the positivity rate in Oregon is inaccurate as thousands of Covid tests are allegedly not included in the calculation to determine our positivity rate. Without an accurate positivity rate, it seems clear we will have an incredibly difficult time implementing equitable restrictions in both private and public settings based on data.
You can access the KGW story here to better understand the gravity of this situation.
As we move through the process of fighting for your rights in federal district court, I want to thank you all for doing everything you can to stay strong for yourself, your friends, and your employees. The way you approach your leadership journey today will shape your approach for years to come. Our fight is for equitable rights where operators can continue employing people in Oregon’s dining rooms in a way that aligns with the rules established for other industries and for our private residences. As we all know, if Oregonians can gather in groups of up to 6 people across two households in private indoor and outdoor settings, then Oregon’s restaurant operators should be able to serve patrons in groups based on that same standard with physical distance between dining parties. That is our goal – to establish equity in our approach as a state while our industry continues to make significant sacrifices as part of the ongoing emergency health crisis.
You can find ORLA’s suit asking a judge for a temporary restraining order against the latest round of restrictions here:
Our press release to the media regarding the filing of the suit can be found here:
In the spirit of collaboration, there is one thing we all collectively can continue advocating for – action by our federal leaders to pass another relief package. Governor Brown’s office, ORLA, and other business groups are pleading with our federal elected leaders to provide this much needed relief as we wait for several vaccines to move through their approval and distribution process. Another round of Paycheck Protection Program dollars and passage of the Restaurants Act is absolutely crucial in our fight for operators across this state. As part of your leadership journey, we ask you to reach out to Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley as well as your Oregon Congressional leader to request this action. Contact information for your Oregon federal elected leaders can be found through the following links:
Contact US Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon):
Contact US Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon):
Contact District 1 Congressional Leader Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon):
Contact District 2 Congressional Leader Greg Walden (R-Oregon):
Contact District 3 Congressional Leader Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon):
Contact District 4 Congressional Leader Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon):
Contact District 5 Congressional Leader Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon):
ORLA is here for restaurant and lodging operators of all shapes and sizes. Our industry will continue to represent the fabric of an incredible American story while leading the way for other industries in embracing the many ways in which our culture is changing. With more female owned and minority owned businesses than any other industry in our country, I know together we will continue to lead by example.
One more important note. ORLA has recently established a new formal partnership with Oregon’s Small Business Development Centers. Expert restaurant advisors are standing by to assist you in wrestling with the difficult challenges facing you right now. Coronavirus Relief Funds have made this new partnership possible. You can visit the following webpage to sign up for no cost, confidential one on one consulting in less than 5 minutes and the professional staff working with Oregon’s Small Business Development Centers will follow up. Regardless of your level of success in the industry, I encourage you to take a hard look at this resource. An outside perspective may help in uncovering a new idea that allows you to hold on a little longer until a vaccine arrives. You can sign up through the following webpage:
My best to you and your families this holiday season. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in your time of need.
Jason Brandt, President & CEO