The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association on Friday morning joined the Restaurant Law Center in asking the U.S. District Court for an injunction that would halt Gov. Kate Brown's two-week shutdown of indoor and outdoor food service.
The industry lobbying group says taking legal action is necessary in order to help save its members across the state, which include some 10,000 food and beverage establishments and about 2,000 hotels and resorts—although those numbers have now declined due to COVID-19-caused permanent closures.
Jason Brandt, ORLA's president and CEO, says the latest constraints on the industry "lack equity and due process." The group decided to move forward as a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit following an emergency meeting with its board of directors this week.
Since the governor first called for a pause on social activities in early November, the organization has repeatedly sounded the alarm that new restrictions would lead to a devastating number of layoffs and business closures.
ORLA has also expressed concern that even temporarily preventing its members from on-premises business will lead to more gatherings in homes, where mask wearing and distancing guidelines will obviously not be regulated like they are in bars and restaurants. Since the two-week freeze for most counties—four in Multnomah—allows Oregonians to get together in groups of up to six people from two different households, the organization says restaurant owners should be able to serve guests based on the same standard.
"A blanket ban on indoor and outdoor dining is wrong and we believe the latest executive order in Oregon is also illegal," Angelo Amador, executive director of the Restaurant Law Center, stated in a press release. "We hope our complaint will encourage the governor and other officials to meet to develop a more reasonable and pragmatic approach that protects the livelihood of restaurant industry workers and restaurateurs across the state."
The governor's office declined to comment on pending litigation, but noted that it had committed $55 million in assistance this week to businesses affected by the pandemic.
While awaiting a ruling, Oregon's restaurant and bar owners must continue to serve their food to go in packaged form.