Many Oregon businesses are now allowed to reopen under the state’s Phase 1 guidelines, but attorneys have yet to determine how these eased social-distancing restrictions affect a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of several Oregon businesses requesting relief from the state’s coronavirus-related executive orders.
The nine plaintiffs, including five businesses, three business-owners, and the nonprofit Open Our Oregon, are asking that two executive orders — the Stay-Home order (20-12), and the order restricting gatherings of 25 people or more (20-07) — be rendered “null and void, of no effect, insofar as those orders forbid the operation of Oregon businesses,” according to a complaint filed Tuesday, May 12.
Later that week, Gov. Kate Brown approved 31 of Oregon’s 36 counties to begin Phase One reopening as soon as May 15, which allowed restaurants and bars to resume dine-in service and personal care services and gyms to open their doors, so long as they all follow specific guidelines.
“The state has made a recent argument that due to the Governor rescinding those Orders and the businesses can now open, so they argue the case is moot now and that we should dismiss,” said Canby-based attorney Tyler Smith of Tyler Smith and Associates PC, who is representing the three business owners. The remaining plaintiffs are being represented by Portland-based attorney James Buchal of Murphy and Buchal LLP.
“We are exploring the law, their arguments and considering our rights as this may be a victory of sorts for some of our clients,” said Smith, “But we have to explore this further to make sure a remedy for everyone is found if possible.”
Both of the contested executive orders were issued in March, and many businesses and business-owners have felt the negative affects — including Phillip Dawson, owner of Under the Skin Tattoo LLC., a tattoo parlor in Hood River that is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
“I have the right to work and my family needs to eat. I’m a single dad with 18 years in the tattoo industry,” said Dawson. “Kate Brown closed my doors, took away the only means I have of supporting myself and my family. What she has proposed is something Oregon tattoo artists are already doing in their daily practice. Thirty day shut down? I can handle that. But 90 days? Possibly longer? Threatening my license if I reopen? Threatening to jail me for working? That’s unconstitutional on a few levels.”
While Under the Skin would be allowed to reopen under Phase 1 guidelines, Dawson said that he lost his lease during the closure, and that there’s currently not a business left to reopen.
Plaintiff The Mount Hood Mixer Shop, a liquor store with locations in Hood River and The Dalles, is still in business, but feeling the effects the state restrictions have had on visitation in the Gorge. “In my community, I serve about 40 bars, and restaurants and (the stay-home order) has hurt us tremendously,” The Register Guard quoted store-owner Mark Freeman in a May 13 article. “It’s kind of a state government gone amuck … In the Columbia River Gorge where we’re so tourist dependent, we are really hurting.”
In the May 12 complaint, the plaintiffs argue that Gov. Brown and Oregon Public Health Director Lillian Shirley’s decision-making regarding coronavirus-related restrictions “…is irrational, unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious when viewed from many perspectives,” and that their conduct “…is sufficiently offensive to fundamental constitutional rights that it does not withstand scrutiny even under more deferential standards of judicial review.”