Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order shutting down all dining rooms and outdoor dining has been in place for a few days now, but today the industry group Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA), along with the Restaurant Law Center, has filed a suit with a federal district court to suspend the order, alleging that the order lacks “equity and due process.”
The suit alleges that the executive order unfairly targets restaurants while allowing other industries to operate more or less normally, such as malls and retail stores. The suit builds on ORLA’s statement from earlier this week that prohibiting outdoor dining would force gatherings inside homes, and that restaurants are better suited to implement the necessary safety precautions.
ORLA represents around 1,600 Oregon restaurants, around 500 lodging establishments, and about 250 allied members which include farms, distributors, and related service providers. According to the president and CEO Jason Brandt, the board called an emergency meeting on Tuesday, November 17 immediately after Gov. Brown’s order, and that the suit “reflects the will of the operators in leadership roles.”
“We’re asking for a temporary restraining order from the executive order that would lift that order and allow thousands of employees to pick up shifts before the holiday season starts,” Brandt says. “[We want to] seek parity and equity for the thousands of businesses in this state that just want a fair shot at running their business in a safe way to make ends meet for themselves and their employees.”
The state, in previous public statements, has argued that the shutdown is a necessary sacrifice meant to curb the rapidly spreading virus, which has now surpassed 1,000 new cases each day four times in the last week. Gov. Brown has announced that the state is setting aside $55 million dollars in relief funds, with the hospitality industry being named as a priority. Brandt also says that ORLA has been working with industry members and state legislators in order to move forward with legalizing to-go cocktails, a major point of frustration that has plagued the industry since the first shut down in March of this year. Still, he warns that legalization would not be a panacea for the industry’s woes. “To-go cocktails are an important tool in the took kit, but on its own it won’t save restaurants,” he says.
COVID-19 rates continue to spike at alarmingly rates in Oregon and elsewhere, tens of thousands of Oregonians remain unemployed, and the hospitality industry stands at a precipice. At the time of publishing, Gov. Kate Brown’s office could not be reached for a statement.