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Businesses seek to challenge restrictions

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A group of businesses in Wasco County have been strategizing and preparing for a legal battle as they seek to challenge the governor’s order restricting indoor gatherings due to COVID-19.

Todd Carpenter, who owns Last Stop Saloon in The Dalles, said an LLC — Wasco County Business Alliance — was formed Dec. 17 to retain an attorney and “assemble a defense fund for county and state-level lawsuits.”

Carpenter said owners of at least seven other restaurants in The Dalles have discussed a potential legal challenge. He said businesses are forming a plan to open safely which they will present when they find the best legal avenue to do so.

“We opened safely for six months, why are we shut now?” Carpenter said.

Beachwood Eatery owner Ken Catlin said small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by restrictions. Catlin has been cooking at Beachwood while his wife and mother-in-law help handle orders. He said he has put the last of his savings into the restaurant’s account, despite laying off staff to cut overhead.

“I don’t have any more backup,” Catlin said. “Our public has supported us in a big way. It still isn’t enough to keep my lights on.”

Carpenter also owns two Portland-area restaurants. He said he normally employs 45 people between the three staffs but only has hours for seven now. Catlin has two employees working part time after 16 lay offs.

Catlin said restrictions could drive many restaurants out of business. He said businesses at all levels of the food industry would be impacted by this in the long term.

“I think the state’s treating us like kids. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I ever got treated like this as a kid,” Catlin said. “People think just because they shut our doors, the bills stop.”

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