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Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Oregon bars and restaurants have struggled to stay afloat. On Dec. 21, 2020, the state’s senate voted to allow cocktails-to-go to provide a lifeline for these businesses.
As neighboring states rewrote laws and policies to support their alcohol-based industry, the Oregon legislature failed to respond until yesterday’s special session. During two previous sessions, lawmakers failed to address the situation that has resulted in business closures and massive unemployment.
During the first six weeks of Oregon’s shut down, which banned on-premise dining across the state, more than 80 percent of the state’s service industry workers were laid off, reports Michael Russell for the Oregonian on April 28. The layoffs accounted for nearly two-fifths of the state’s unemployed.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s (OLCC) hands were tied because the prohibition against bars and restaurants selling to-go alcoholic beverages was deeply seated within its legal code. Representatives with the OLCC advised the alcohol-based businesses that their hands were tied.
Governor Kate Brown has handled the state’s response to the pandemic using an overabundance of caution, which allowed Oregon’s infection and death rates to remain somewhat low. When the case numbers climbed during the newest spike, Brown closed indoor food and alcohol service.
Bars serving food have not been hit as hard as those that only serve alcohol since they could offer food take-out. Once, such barrooms in northeast Portland decided to optimize their barroom into a retail space with coolers offering fresh groceries, beer, and wine to go.
The bill will remain in effect for 60 days after the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted. In it, legislators placed a limit on the fees third-party delivery services can charge restaurants.
Now that the Senate has approved the measure, it goes to the House for approval, and then to Governor Brown for her signature.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
The Oregonian: ‘We’re not surviving:’ Portland bars, restaurants ask to sell cocktails to-go; by Michael Russell
The Oregonian: Oregon Senate approves cocktails to-go at last, sending lifeline to struggling restaurants and bars; by Michael Russell
All Images Courtesy of David Singleton’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
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