The need for strong, independent local journalism
is more urgent than ever. Please support the city we
love by joining Friends of Willamette Week.

Dutch Bros Baristas Say They Can’t Maintain Proper Distance in “Tiny” Coffee Stands

“There are up to 10 employees on a shift in a very small space. Manager hugged everyone on shift despite protest.”

Dutch Bros employees, confined to their trademark blue coffee stands, say they are unable to maintain proper social distancing during the pandemic, according to complaints filed with Oregon Occupational Safety & Health.

Since March 25, a dozen Dutch Bros employees in Oregon have filed COVID-19-related complaints with OSHA, according to records obtained by WW.

"The coffee stand at this location has at least 5 people inside and due to the tiny size of the building there is no way the employees are 6 feet away from each other in order to practice social distancing," says a complaint filed March 25 by a Dutch Bros employee in Springfield, Ore.

Since March 23, Oregon OSHA has received 1,152 COVID-19-related complaints from employees in a range of industries: hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, construction companies and, of course, coffee shops. The Dutch Bros complaints are significant in part because they highlight the logistical difficulty of keeping even a takeout-centered business like a coffee stand open.

Dutch Bros, which is headquartered in Grant Pass, Ore., has over 30 locations in the state. Many of them are drive-thru stands where workers are packed in closely.

On March 28, days after management at the Dutch Bros in Monmouth, Ore., say they became aware that an employee at that stand had tested positive for COVID-19, a worker at that location filed a similar complaint.

"Employees are working in close proximity of one another and are not adhering to the 6 foot social distancing rule," says the Monmouth employee's complaint, dated March 28. "No cleaning being conducted."

And at a location in Northeast Portland, an employee on March 28 complained of 10 workers occupying the stand simultaneously.

"There are up to 10 employees on a shift in a very small space. It is not possible to stand 6 feet apart," the employee of the Northeast Lloyd Boulevard stand wrote. "Employer told employees 3 feet distance is OK instead of standing 6 feet apart. Manager hugged everyone on shift despite protest."

In a statement to WW, Dutch Bros said it has "taken steps to support social distancing" in its coffee shops, and implemented sanitation strategies using guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Among these is a written policy outlining what steps broistas can take to remain properly distanced from each other, and are enforcing other policies to reduce the spread of COVID-19," Dutch Bros said in a statement. "In addition, we are releasing additional training and a staffing calculator to show franchisees, operators and managers how to best staff their operations for optimal distancing."

The company added that it's working with OSHA "to find effective and actionable ways to navigate this unprecedented time."