Gov. Kate Brown's order to shut down bars and restaurants across the state in response to the coronavirus pandemic went into effect at possibly the worst time for Oregon's watering holes: St. Patrick's Day.
But for one Eastern Oregon bar, the celebration pushed forward, despite the persistent warnings about "social distancing" and "flattening the curve."
Rainbow Cafe in Pendleton has a long history of going all out on St. Patrick's Day, even throwing a parade in the street right outside the bar. And if you went to the bar Tuesday morning, you hardly would have known anything was different this year.
Here's how the East Oregonian newspaper described the scene:
By midmorning, word had gotten out about the Rainbow rebellion. Cafe employees served Irish coffee and green beer to a dozen customers. In the kitchen, Megan Jakabosky, wearing a Kelly-green tutu adorned with shamrocks, cooked bacon. Irish music spilled from the jukebox … At one table, Donna Bradbury and Deena Pitcher sipped Irish coffees. Bradbury waved a bottle of hand sanitizer with a grin. Both wore flashing shamrock pins and shamrock necklaces. If Rainbow owner Joanne McGee got penalized for opening the Rainbow, they said, they would start a GoFundMe page to raise money to pay the fine.
Patrons continued to file in as the day went on. Eventually, according to the East Oregonian, McGee received a call from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, ordering her to shut the bar down or face serious consequences.
The problem? According to Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts, they had no idea what those "consequences" were.
"Historically, when things of this nature occur, we've received some kind of release or order or what have you," he tells WW. "We hadn't seen any of that."
Roberts says all he knew about the governor's order is what he read in the media. After making some calls, he was told violators could be charged with a misdemeanor, while having their liquor license temporarily suspended by the OLCC. Rogers then sent an email to Pendleton business owners and officials:
“I am extremely empathetic to the burden such restrictions will place on local families, employees, businesses and the economy, but I am obligated to fulfill my oath to uphold the laws of the State of Oregon,” he wrote. “Therefore, as of 5 p.m., this evening, Tuesday, March 17, owners/proprietors of local businesses found in violation of the condition(s) spelled out in Governor’s Order 20-07 will be asked one time to cease and desist before being criminally cited. I am very hopeful no one will need to be cited as a consequence of this unfortunate development.”
McGee eventually complied, forcing everyone out at 4:45 pm.
"I don't want to lose my license. I don't want to get in trouble with the lottery," McGee told the East Oregonian. "This place has been in business for 137 years."
McGee could not be reached for further comment Wednesday. Calls to Rainbow Cafe went unanswered.
Read the full article—featuring much more local color—here.