Business owners speak out about new OLCC masking enforcement rule

During the period between July 3 and July 18, there were 27 cases referred to OSHA involving those who failed to comply. The OLCC visited 2,371 businesses during that time.

Posted: Aug 2, 2020 8:10 PM
Updated: Aug 2, 2020 10:22 PM

LANE COUNTY-- The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is now telling businesses that their alcohol licenses could be suspended if they do not enforce social distancing and masking.

The temporary rule was approved Friday by the OLCC.

“It makes sense why they do it,” The Growler Guys Manager Jeffrey Middleton said. “It’s obviously not ideal, and it does affect business. In the long run, it's for the better. If you can't do that and you're putting people at risk, then I guess you probably deserve to get your license revoked in my opinion.”

Middleton said that he hasn’t had any issues yet with customers failing to comply with the rules.

“When the ordinance first passed, I was really concerned that I was going to have to deal with argumentative people,” Middleton said. “Fortunately here, our customer-base is fantastic. I haven't had a single person complain. Everybody has had one. For the people that don’t have masks, I keep some disposable ones here for them.”

During the period between July 3 and July 18, there were 27 cases referred to OSHA involving those who failed to comply. The OLCC visited 2,371 businesses during that time.

Now OLCC can punish businesses for not enforcing pandemic rules without involving Oregon OSHA.

Chris Craig is the owner of Gridiron Grill & Taphouse in Springfield.

“You can't control everybody,” Craig said. “They can't ask us and fine us for not controlling everybody.”

Craig said that more education is needed to get everyone on the same page, including the OLCC. He believes there are too many grey areas.

“One of my employees came to me when I came in and said that there was a group of four guys who came in for breakfast,” Craig said. “One of them said he was exempt, and he was being a real grouch about the whole thing. He said he was exempt and then all of his buddies said they were exempt to. Legally, we’re not supposed to ask.”

Craig said that three incidents have occurred within his bar where the OLCC had to step in. One of those being after an employee did not have their mask on all the way up, due to having difficulty breathing from medical history.

“For those three things, we didn't get cited,” Craig said. “They made a huge deal about it and sent a report to OSHA on us regarding that. They felt it was enough that they needed to report it.”

He said that, since then, bar management has created further ways to enforce the guidelines. However, he said that the Gridiron Grill & Taphouse is one of the busiest small bars in Springfield, which can make it difficult to enforce when multiple customers violate the rules at once.

“When you walk into the bar, we got floor stickers, ceiling signs, door stickers, entryway stickers -- reminding, reminding, reminding.. how much reminding and we still have people that do it.”

He said that the focus should be placed on those who are flagrantly not complying, which is something OLCC inspectors are keeping track of.

“Continue educating,” Craig said. “At least give us three to six months of just popping in once in a while, seeing how are things going and observing what's going on. It’s going to take everyone time to get this all figured out.”

The OLCC said the new rule does not apply to license holders who have a case that has already been referred to OSHA.

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