Small Businesses Decry COVID Closures

Photo: Joan McGuire

It does not make sense to impose restrictions on businesses that provide safe, regulated spaces, a group says.

Share this article!

Small businesses have criticized Gov. Kate Brown’s temporary closures of bars and restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues to curb the virus infection rate.

“It’s frustrating that while the governor and state agencies have identified informal social gatherings as the primary driver of recent COVID-19 case increases in Oregon, these new restrictions are again targeting businesses,” said the National Federation of Independent Business/Oregon in a statement.

On Nov. 13, Gov. Brown announced a statewide “two-week freeze” to limit gatherings and stop the rapid spread COVID-19. The closures in Multnomah County will last at least four weeks. The restrictions come into force on Nov. 18.

Brown said in a statement that the fast spread of the virus has created a “dangerous” situation and hospitals have been “sounding the alarms.”

During the week of Nov. 2 though Nov. 8, the Oregon Health Authority recorded 5,177 new cases of COVID-19 infection, a 46% increase compared with the prior week. Forty-two Oregonians died because of the virus and 212 were hospitalized during that period.

Several other states have announced stricter restrictions to curb the infection rate, which has increased rapidly throughout the U.S. Governors of Washington and Michigan announced business closures that are similar to Oregon’s.

Under Gov. Brown’s order, eating and drinking establishments will be limited to take-out and delivery. Fitness organizations will be closed, including pools and sports courts. Retail stores and malls will be limited to 75% capacity and are encouraged to do curbside pickup.


The National Federation of Independent Business/Oregon said in a statement that most businesses have done “everything asked of them in order to keep their employees and customers safe.” The group argues that workplace outbreaks account for a very low number of the state’s total positive cases.

Small businesses bear the economic brunt of the pandemic.  The federation says nearly 40% of its members face permanent closure within the year.

The Oregon Beverage Alliance released a statement describing the new closures as adding “insult to injury.”    
“Beer, wine, cider and spirits are an essential part of Oregon’s economy and identity. In order to survive, Oregon’s breweries, wineries, cideries, restaurants and bars need the support of our elected officials,” said the alliance in a statement.

The group took the opportunity to plead with lawmakers to resist imposing a new proposed state tax on beer, wine and cider. The proposed levy is designed to raise money to fund mental health and addiction counseling.

The CEO and founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards, Jim Bernau, criticized what he called the “one-size-fits-all” regulatory approach to curbing coronavirus, which he says hurts small business employees who are exceeding safety measures.

The winery installed UVC light filtration in its HVAC systems to prevent microorganisms from getting into the air. It also put in place small “wine pods” outside to restrict social mixing. 

To subscribe to Oregon Business, click here.