PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon’s already-ailing restaurant industry is entering into another statewide lockdown with even tighter restrictions and cocktails could be the key to survival.
Restaurants and bars help form the backbone of Portland’s economic structure. The city’s food scene is world-renowned but many locations have been forced to close their doors for good since the start of the pandemic.
And with Governor Kate Brown’s latest executive order limiting food and drink establishments to take-out only, many businesses that have managed to limp along for the past nine months are now at risk of folding.
In an effort to avoid such an end, many Oregonians are lobbying the state to allow the sale of cocktails with takeout. Selling cocktails-to-go is legal in Washington and California. Oregon allows customers to take growlers to go but stops short of permitting mixed drinks.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission told KOIN 6 News the state legislature would need to change the law before food and drink establishments could offer takeout cocktails.
Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland) has been pushing for state lawmakers to pass a bill he drafted allowing restaurants and bars to sell mixed drinks in sealed containers.
“If it can get a little more income to these businesses that are just struggling to get by — if they are telling me this is something that might help us limp along until a vaccine comes along until we can get back, I think we’re obligated as elected officials to try and throw them this lifeline,” Nosse said.
When asked what he would say to people who think it’s unsafe or could lead to drinking and driving, Nosse said his bill would require customers to order food if they’re going to order cocktails and the cocktails must be sealed.
Nosse said he’s heard a lot of concern from his constituents about the grim outlook for their favorite restaurants and bars. And other lawmakers seem to be on board with his proposal.
“In the last 48 hours, I’ve heard from five different colleagues who wanted to do this,” he said.
Nosse is calling on Gov. Brown to hold a special session to sign the bill into law.
“This has finally got to change,” he said. “I’m finally getting phone calls returned from my peers who are just as busy as I am trying to do things for their constituents, going ‘okay, I get it now, I’m ready to help you pressure the governor to call a special session, I get why this is important.'”
Brown’s office told KOIN 6 News the governor is open to the idea of a special session.
“Oregonians are making tremendous sacrifices to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Liz Merah, the press secretary for Brown’s office, wrote in an email. “They are counting on lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to work together in the best interests of the state. The Governor remains open to holding another special session if legislators can agree to a succinct list of policies that addresses Oregonians’ most pressing needs, including the impending expiration of the evictions moratorium, while also preserving state resources to maintain vital public services and address the devastation caused by our catastrophic wildfire season.”