New Numbers From the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis Show the Pandemic Is Hitting the Hospitality Industry Harder Than All Others

Revenue for bars and restaurants is down by more than 50% and the state’s entire leisure and hospitality sector has have shed 50,000 jobs this year.

A shuttered restaurant in the Lloyd District. (Wesley Lapointe)

There's already a mountain of anecdotal evidence that the hospitality sector has been hit the hardest by the pandemic. Since spring, more and more reports and surveys have backed up that claim.

Now, the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis has new numbers that demonstrate bars, restaurants and hotels are getting walloped.

This week, the agency released its 2020 Economic and Revenue Forecast, which found that revenue for food and beverage establishments is down by more than 50%. The state's entire leisure and hospitality sector will have shed 50,000 jobs this year, far more than any other field.

And those figures were compiled before the freeze that began yesterday, prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining, as well as temporarily shuttering attractions like museums, movie theaters, skating rinks and zoos. The most recent round of restrictions will almost undoubtedly lead to more job losses.

The latest call for more government assistance comes from the Oregon Beverage Alliance. The organization, made up of brewers, wine producers, cidermakers and distillers, is asking for the resumption of eating and drinking on patios and decks. Members are additionally concerned about a budget proposal by the Oregon Health Authority, which would raise $293 million from a new tax on beer, wine and cider, amounting to an 800% increase in those fees for the 2021-23 cycle.

"As our businesses and employees face these brutal realities, we hope the governor will lift the 'freeze' at least on tastings and outdoor dining and state legislators will resist any attempt to add to the misery by saddling us with cumbersome new taxes," the organization stated in a press release. "That's the last thing our homegrown businesses need right now."

Meanwhile, small businesses can start completing applications for relief from the new Emergency Business Assistance Grant Fund beginning tomorrow. The $20 million addition to the program, approved earlier this month, is separate from the $55 million of COVID-19 aid for small businesses announced by Gov. Kate Brown this week.

Grants will be available to establishments like bars and restaurants that have lost revenue due to the pandemic and meet a set of minimum requirements. This round of relief is accessible to more businesses than the earlier infusions. Employers with up to 100 staffers can now apply, whereas previous funding was limited to those with up to 25.

Applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis with a geographic overlay to ensure statewide distribution of proceeds.

Additional assistance to small purveyors is also coming in the form of a public awareness campaign. Today, the governor kicked off a program dubbed "Give the Gift of Oregon" in conjunction with Travel Oregon to encourage consumers to shop local and keep independent businesses afloat. A full list of featured businesses from across the state, including restaurants, hotels and small retailers, will be on the Travel Oregon website on Nov. 20.

But business owners are also taking matters into their own hands. City Shoppe, a new online marketplace helping consumers shop locally, has started a petition. For the next six weeks, the hope is to get 100,000 people to pledge to buy locally this holiday season.

Related: Portland's Restaurants Were Hanging on by a Thread. What Will They Do in a Holiday Freeze?

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