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Federal judge rejects Oregon restaurants’ lawsuit over 2-week ‘freeze’ closures

(Update: Adding video, more details)

'Disappointed' restaurant group plans to seek special session in December

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association expressed disappointment after a federal judge on Tuesday refused to grant a temporary restraining order against Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order banning indoor and outdoor dining.

The lawsuit was spearheaded by the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association which filed suit last Friday, saying they felt they were being unfairly punished by the executive order implementing the two-week statewide "freeze" in an attempt to slow the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.

The federal judge, Karin Immergut did not agree with ORLA's stance and said the freeze is entirely within the state’s authority, due to COVID-19 precautions.

Now, restaurants like J-Dub in downtown Bend are being forced to close their doors temporarily.

J-Dub's owner, Jon Weber, is feeling the brunt of these latest decisions.

"I had to lay off all my staff," Weber said Tuesday. "I had to fire myself, and everyone here is going to go back on unemployment, which is going to be more effective."

Weber said you have to be able to pivot, but the industry is already hard enough, and takeout-only is not a viable option.

He said he understands the restrictions in an attempt to combat COVID-19, but he doesn't feel industries are being treated equally.

"It's not new, having to change direction -- just right now, it's being applied in a way that isn't equal across the board," Weber said. "I think we're on the tip of the spear right now."

Equity is something ORLA President and CEO Jason Brandt also brings to light.

"There was some inequity, and there continues to be inequity in how we're creating standards for private settings versus restaurants," Brandt told us after Tuesday's court ruling.

We do still feel like we have a pretty good track record of safety, because of all the procedures and protocols that have been put in place over the last eight months," he said.

Brandt said their argument revolves around the fact that two households can still gather in private settings of up to six people without a face covering.

Within restaurants, the face mask is only taken off in a stationary position, and the employee is always wearing a mask to ensure safety.

Despite pushback, restaurants across Central Oregon like J-Dub will continue on as best they can.

Here's the organization's news release about Tuesday's ruling:

Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association Remains Committed to Working Through Covid-19 Realities

Wilsonville, OR– The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association is disappointed we were not able to secure a temporary restraining order against the latest indoor and outdoor dining room freeze on our industry, which continues to impact thousands of operators and tens of thousands of industry employees.

We remain committed to working with Governor Kate Brown, her professional staff, and the Oregon Health Authority to find paths forward for Oregonian livelihoods which remain devastated by the realities of COVID-19.

We must now turn all of our attention to the importance of convening a special session of the Oregon Legislature in December, as well as the necessity of federal action. We must bridge the gap for Oregon’s small businesses and tens of thousands of workers who need relief until a widely available vaccine is available for our friends, our families, and our colleagues.

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Alec Nolan

Alec Nolan is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Alec here.


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