The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association is launching a legal defense fund for food and lodging businesses to facilitate a legal action against the restrictions of doing business issued by Gov. Kate Brown in response to COVID-19, as reported by the Register-Guard on Dec 11. The November restrictions, according to the Association, exacerbated financial struggles caused by pandemic-related orders issued earlier in the year.
The pandemic has impacted this sector particularly hard. The industry that employed 180,000 Oregon workers before the onset of the coronavirus now has downsized their workforce by about 55,000 or about 30% according to ORLA’s website.
“Operators across the state are also growing more frustrated by a lack of adjustment to taxes and fees that fail to consider the operational reality of the year 2020,” reports the ORLA website, quoting increases in unemployment insurance tax rates beginning 2021, county health inspection fees based on the number of dining room seats, and alcohol consumption licenses.
The lawsuits filed will be “unique in nature and dependent on the circumstances facing operators with a focus on government restrictions causing a hospitality business location to close permanently,” explains ORLA’s website, arguing that lack of demands of services due to COVID-19 alone wouldn’t have resulted in such severe financial hardship.
In late November, when COVID-19 cases climbed, the Association sued Brown “in response to the statewide two-week freeze that prohibited indoor and outdoor dining — among other restrictions,” reportsthe Register-Guard, adding that the Association hoped a court order would halt the restrictions, but a “federal judge ruled in favor of the state and the freeze went forward as planned.”