PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — December delivered a double-whammy to the restaurant and brewery scene with stringent restrictions and the arrival of cooler, wet temperatures.
Cornerstones of the community like Reel M Inn are temporarily closed because they can’t operate under the latest restrictions and — like many places — are at risk of closing for good.
The Independent Restaurant Alliance of Oregon called on Gov. Kate Brown to convene a special session to take up legislation allowing cocktails-to-go. The alliance and Rep. Rob Nosse crafted a proposal but, after months of asking, nothing’s been done.
However, hope may be on the horizon.
On Tuesday morning, Gov. Brown announced she has called a special session in order for the legislature to consider $800 million in relief to support Oregonians. The special session will convene at 8 a.m. on Monday — and legislation for cocktails-to-go is reportedly on the table as part of a larger restaurant relief package.
Restaurateurs and bar owners say cocktails-to-go would provice an additional vital revenue stream without requiring a financial investment from the state. More than 30 states nationwide now allow cocktails-to-go because of the pandemic.
“If we don’t take action, we’re going to see instead of a Reel M Inn a Chipotle, a Taco Bell. We’re going to start seeing fast food chains taking over our cities — and that’s not who Oregon is,” said Katy Connors with the IRAO. “There’s over 11,000 independent bars and restaurants in this state, and it’s time to save them.”
Without immediate action, she said, the nearly $10 billion restaurant economy will be irreparably damaged.
Restaurants are one of Oregon’s largest employment sectors, with 11% of the state’s workforce depending on income from restaurants and bars — including Oregon’s local farms and vineyards.
“We’re looking for the Senate and Senate leadership to come together and understand that every single bill may not be perfect, but action must be taken this month in order to save our small businesses and our workers,” Connors said. “If we lose our multi-million-dollar restaurant economy, tourist economy, this will be devastating for the long term. So, we need to see past the nit-picky politics of today and look at what are we going to be looking like in a year, 3 years, 10 years.”
KOIN 6 reached out to Senate President Peter Courtney for his thoughts and his office responded, saying “At this time, Senator Courtney does not have a comment on this specific proposal. The content of a December special session is still under discussion between the Governor, and Democrats and Republicans from both chambers.”