By Jim Redden  

Oregon Capital Bureau  

SALEM -- Restaurant and other business organizations say the $55 million promised by Oregon Gov. Kate  Brown for pandemic relief is a good first step, but not nearly enough to prevent widespread closures caused by her temporary "freeze" to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Brown's two-week statewide freeze on indoor and outdoor dining, indoor exercise and  entertainment activities — and social gatherings of more than six unrelated people — took effect  on Wednesday, Nov. 18. 

It will last for four weeks in Multnomah County and possibly the rest of the Portland region.  

The day before the freeze started, Brown's office announced the federal CARES funds will be  prioritized for businesses in the hospitality industry, those hurt by the freeze order, small  businesses, and those from Black, Native American and other historically disadvantaged communities. It will be distributed by the counties on a population basis.  

“Our iconic main street businesses have sacrificed too much already in this pandemic,” Brown  said.  "Our industry applauds the decision by Gov. Brown to create a $55 million relief fund with an  emphasis on supporting hospitality businesses. The support represents a starting point for much  needed federal action to assist Oregon’s restaurants and hotels in fighting through the  upcoming months," said Jason Brandt, President and CEO of the Oregon Restaurant and  Lodging Association, who had previously called for the Oregon Legislature to create a $75  million relief fund. 

"We were very happy to see Gov. Brown set up this fund and appreciate that she is prioritizing the businesses that have been hardest hit by the new closures," said Sandra McDonough,  President and CEO of Oregon Business & Industry, whose organization opposed the freeze  before it was announced. “We remain very concerned about the devastating impact the closures  will have on small businesses across our state. Many may not survive this latest blow. While this fund won’t offset all of the inevitable business losses, it will help many.”  

"It's a start,” said Katy Connors, chair of the Independent Restaurant Alliance of Oregon, “but it will not go a long way with all the debt that's already been created by the crisis and the  shutdown that are occurring," 

The alliance is pushing for a special session of the Oregon Legislature in December to provide more relief and to legalize the sale of cocktails to-go.  

On Wednesday, Speaker of the House Tina Kotek also called for a December special session of  the Legislature.  Connors also said Brown's ban on outdoor dining is especially unfortunate because many restaurant and bar owned recently have spent tens of thousands of dollars on tents, heaters and  other equipment to cope with the wet weather. She noted that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee  allowed outdoor dining to continue when he banned indoor dining earlier this week. 

Brandt, McDonough and Connors all said that health experts agree that people not taking  precautions at social gatherings are causing COVID-19 cases to spike in Oregon, not  restaurants and bars.  

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