A Roseburg brewpub owner caused a bit of a stir Tuesday when he posted a video on his Facebook page indicating the business would be open for customers — leaving the impression he might be violating a state mandate — only later to say that was not his intent.
KC McKillip, owner of Backside Brewing Co., 1640 NE Odell Ave., posted a video Monday on the brewery’s Facebook page in which he announced the decision to open and his reasons why.
In the 5-minute video, which was viewed more than 4,000 times since it posted Monday, McKillip said it’s important that local businesses be allowed to operate for the good of the community.
“Starting this Tuesday we will be attempting to operate with our normal business hours,” McKillip said. “We are doing this because we cannot afford to be closed, we can no longer afford to keep our employees laid off. We have beer that needs to be brewed, we have products that need to be distributed. We want to work, we need to work, our staff wants to work. We need to make money the old fashion way, we don’t want government bailouts.”
McKillip also said that the opening is not a political statement, but an economic decision.
“We want everyone to understand this isn’t a political statement of any sort, this is us just stating where we stand and how we’re going to move forward from here,” he said. “This isn’t something that you might feel as passionate about if you’re not directly affected by it right now, and that’s understandable.”
McKillip acknowledged that COVID-19 is real and caused “terrible things” to people, especially the elderly and those with health conditions.
“With that being said, sitting at home, eating junk food, watching Netflix, is probably not the healthiest thing,” he added.
McKillip encouraged other businesses to follow his lead.
“We’re going to stay open, we encourage everyone else to stay open as much as you can,” he said. “Obviously we don’t want people out breaking laws. But we need to survive, we need to keep our staff employed and we need to move forward. Sitting at home, not going out, that does not help the local economy here in our community.”
The video was shared 359 times by Tuesday afternoon and 65 people left comments. Many of the comments supported the move to open.
“You have our full support, hoping more small businesses will be brave and stand up, cheers,” one person wrote.
“Yes!! We support you and are behind you 100%. Oregon needs to be OPEN!!” another wrote.
“I wrote something similar last night but didn’t post it because as business owners it’s incredibly hard to speak your mind without causing some backlash,” said a third. “You did a great job and I’ll be by to support you!”
Backside faces possible fines and the loss of its liquor license if it is found to be in violation of Gov. Kate Brown’s state mandates. Casey’s Restaurant, also in Roseburg, opened earlier this year in violation of state mandates and now faces nearly $15,000 in fines.
When reached on Tuesday, McKillip said he did not intend to violate any laws and was just trying to promote that the business was open.
“We are promoting we are open. We are not promoting seating inside against executive orders. Just trying to put the word out,” he said.
When asked if that meant the brewery would not be serving anyone inside, the company responded: “That is correct. Not right now anyways.”
In November, Gov. Kate Brown announced strict regulations, including the elimination of dine-in service at bars and restaurants, in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The two-week “freeze” took effect on Nov. 18 and extended to Dec. 2. Brown then extended the mandates another three weeks for counties considered at “Extreme Risk,” which includes Douglas County.
Under the restrictions, indoor dining is prohibited and outdoor dining is limited to 50 people. A maximum of six people from two households are allowed to share a table and establishments must close by 11 p.m., according to the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Douglas County has seen a steep increase in COVID-19 cases over the last month or so. In the one-month period from Nov. 3 to Dec. 3, total cases went from 400 to 1,010, deaths went from eight to 19, and the number of people in isolation went from 54 to 174.
Statewide during that same period, total cases went from 46,460 to 79,263, deaths went from 693 to 973, and the number of people hospitalized went from 181 to 559.