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The OLCC Suspends a Canby-Area Bar’s Liquor License for Violating COVID-19 Protocols

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission says the bar was allowing customers to dine and drink inside without masks

Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.

Route 99 Roadhouse in Canby has temporarily shut down after the Oregon Liquor Control Commission suspended its license. The OLCC claims the bar violated social distancing and mask requirements set by the state.

According to a Thursday press release, the OLCC started receiving complaints in January that the bar was regularly allowing customers to eat and drink inside, despite Clackamas County’s “extreme risk” designation. Per Gov. Kate Brown’s guidance, restaurants in “extreme risk” counties cannot allow any form of indoor dining; in addition, all counties in Oregon must wear face coverings and follow social distancing guidelines when in restaurants or bars, regardless of risk status.

The OLCC says it had reached out the bar before the in-person visit with educational information about the state’s safety protocols. According to the OLCC, inspectors who visited the bar for the follow-up evaluation found Route 99 packed with customers and staff, many of whom were maskless inside the bar. “Upon arriving at the business for an in person inspection, OLCC compliance staff observed that Route 99’s parking lot was close to full and could see patrons inside the business socializing without masks,” the press release reads. “After entering Route 99’s dining area, OLCC staff observed a large group of customers, many consuming food and drinks in the bar; all of the customers and employees were socializing without masks.”

The OLCC says it issued an immediate suspension of the bar’s liquor license on February 2; on February 3, the bar posted on its Facebook page, saying “Route 99 will be closed for a few weeks. During this time we are taking the opportunity to do some exciting renovations.” It does not specifically note the OLCC liquor license suspension.

Business owner Rachelle George confirmed that the business did serve customers onsite. Frustrated with the “governor’s mandates,” in her words, and maxing out credit cards trying to keep her business afloat, she spoke with other business owners in the community who were operating as “private clubhouses,” which, according to them, would allow them to evade social distancing, mask-wearing, and onsite consumption guidance for the county. OLCC spokesperson Bryant Haley says this assumption is not correct; businesses that are operating as private clubs are under the same guidance as restaurants and bars.

George decided that they would try to run the bar as a clubhouse, with members and fees. However, after the bar became overwhelmingly busy, George says the team decided to go back to a traditional bar format. “It was a side-step of the mandate,” she says. “We realized quickly that it wasn’t manageable; we didn’t know how to control it.”

George says she and the rest of the Route 99 team will reopen after a few weeks following the state’s guidance for the county. “We have no problem complying with the OLCC,” she says. “When we were open, we made so much money, so we’ll ride it out... I won’t go down without swinging, but I won’t pick a fight, either.”

Updated February 5, 2021, 2:33 p.m.
This story has been updated with comments from Rachelle George.

Disregard for public health leads to alcohol license suspension [OLCC]