An Open Letter to Governor Brown
My name is Dave Thomason and my wife and I own and operate over 40 restaurants of various concepts in Oregon. Thomason Hospitality Group is our corporate name and we have been in business since 1986 employing well over 500 people.
The state of Oregon has announced their latest Covid two week results that indicate that the vast majority of counties in Oregon are either moving to, or staying in, the Extreme Risk category.
Essentially, in all counties where I do business, we will not have an opportunity to reopen our dining rooms until after the first of the new year and more likely, well after that. I can't help but take stock of what has happened to our company as a result of the pandemic.
Things will never be the same for restaurants, which represents the 2nd largest job sector in the state of Oregon. A recent survey indicated that 39% of Oregon restaurants believe it is unlikely that they will still be in business 6 months from now. Already, nationwide, there have been 110,000 restaurants that have closed. More than half of former owners of shuttered restaurants say they will not return to the industry. The average restaurant that is now permanently closed, was in business for 16 years in their respective communities. Every week that restaurant dining rooms remain closed, you can count on a few more nails being hammered into the coffin of those operators whose restaurants will be forced to close permanently.
It is now time, in Oregon, to reopen dining rooms. Current restrictions allow for general retail establishments to utilize a maximum of 50% of their facilities while in the Extreme Risk category. Restaurants should absolutely be considered "retail establishments" and be allowed the same level of occupancy. We have done everything that has been asked or mandated for us to do and then some. All of the established protocols are being followed along with even more procedures that have been provided by the National Restaurant Association. Strict sanitation procedures, masks, plexiglass and all other preventative measures have helped to create a very safe environment in restaurants.
Less than 2% of all workplace Covid outbreaks have been associated with restaurants. LESS THAN 2%! The current restrictions have forced people who would otherwise have enjoyed a meal at a foodservice establishment, to retreat to private gatherings, which have been the source of the vast majority of positive cases. Restaurants have been unfairly targeted as a major source of Covid cases.
We take this horrible disease very seriously. Nobody thought that we would still be dealing with this after 10 months, but it is still here. It must be recognized that there are other victims of this pandemic. First and foremost are our employee team members. We have been forced to lay off hundreds of our employees two different times. Their lives have been completely disrupted and their personal incomes ruined. This most recent hardship is taking place during a time that has made it almost impossible for them to celebrate the holidays. Here in southern Oregon, we have several employees who have also lost their homes as a result of the horrible fires that took place in this region. Mental illness, suicide and other realities have also increased significantly. With an approximate 99% survival rate, we need to put into perspective all of those that are the victims of this pandemic.
Governor Brown, I am a believer in the science of this pandemic. It is the science that I am relying on when I say the time is NOW that we should be allowed to open restaurant dining rooms in the state of Oregon. It is with a true sense of urgency that I present this letter to you, so we would very much appreciate your consideration of my comments.