There is no light switch. It will take years to build back what was lost.
Wilsonville, OR– Today’s announcement from Governor Kate Brown announcing a full reopening of Oregon’s economy no later than Wednesday, June 30 is welcome news. Our state’s restaurant and lodging establishments have a long road ahead as small businesses continue the hard work of regaining their footing after 15 months and 13 days of historic and over-reaching government regulation. Permanent closures, workforce access issues, partial re-openings, and ever-changing administrative rules and emergency orders have left a permanent mark on the approach to doing business in Oregon.
“We never could have imagined the gravity and depth to which government regulations would dictate how we live in a free society when industry shutdowns and capacity restrictions first went into effect on Tuesday, March 17 of 2020,” said Jason Brandt, President & CEO of the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association. “Here we are 15 months later picking up the pieces and doing whatever we can to help Oregon’s extraordinary hospitality industry find its identity once again and it will take time. From a workforce access crisis and supply chain constraints to debt accumulation and back rents and mortgages coming due, historic industry challenges remain and will persist in the years ahead.”
To date, Oregon has permanently lost over 1,400 foodservice locations statewide and some lodging establishments remain closed. Both restaurant and lodging operators continue to face wide-ranging marketplace dynamics resulting in different realities in different regions of the state. As a rule of thumb, the more reliant a region is on business travel, the harder the economic hit.
“The Portland Metro region in particular will need ongoing support to bring back the top tier hospitality experiences our overnight guests have come to expect in our state’s largest city,” said Brandt. “Our hats are off to our partners at Travel Portland, the Portland Business Alliance, and officials at the City of Portland who are inspiring Portlanders to usher in a new transformative chapter with their ‘Here for Portland’ campaign. Ongoing cleanups, increased office worker mobility, and cultural activities can and will make a big difference. As Mayor Wheeler has said, do not bet against Portland or its people.”
One challenge remains clear statewide – no matter the region, the workforce access crisis is deep and relentless. Restaurants and lodging establishments in all regions of the state are currently forced to reduce operating hours, minimize menu options and cordon off available rooms respectively.
“To put it plainly, there are too many Oregonians on the sidelines,” said Brandt. “And this reality has opened up a new frontline of advocacy activity for ORLA – we must be at the table in assisting our state in addressing the child care deserts that exist in all 36 counties in Oregon, we must address the extension of unemployment benefits to those who are not making a concerted effort to find their next job, and we must protect the rights of our frontline workers who choose to wear a face covering at work and respect that choice and embrace it.”
For more information on the efforts of the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association please visit OregonRLA.org.
The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association is the leading business association for the foodservice and lodging industry in Oregon, which before COVID-19 provided over 180,000 paychecks to working Oregonians. The latest available data for May of 2021 from the Oregon Employment Department shows current employment levels in the accommodations and foodservice industry totaling 153,200 people.