Two restaurants located next to each other in a Roseburg strip mall are the subjects of complaints filed with the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleging the businesses were not following COVID-19 safety regulations.
Blac-N-Bleu Bistro and My Coffee are both located at 1700 NW Garden Valley Blvd. Blac-N-Bleu is alleged to have allowed indoor dining and drinking during a period when that was prohibited, said Aaron Corvin, a spokesman for Oregon OSHA. That complaint was received March 9, he said.
Douglas County is currently in an extreme risk category for COVID-19, and restaurants are only allowed to serve customers through take-out or outdoor dining options.
The complaint involving My Coffee alleges that customers and employees were not wearing masks and not enforcing mask and social distance requirements, Corvin said. That complaint was received Feb. 9.
Neither restaurant could be reached for comment Tuesday.
Corvin said the vast majority of complaints are handled by simply working with the business owner, and few result in formal enforcement actions or citations. Statewide, out of more than 20,000 complaints OSHA has received, less than 100 have resulted in citations, he said.
In Douglas County, out of more than 700 complaints received, only one — against Casey’s Restaurant in Roseburg — has led to a citation, Corvin said.
“Generally, our approach has involved education and enforcement,” he said. “When we receive a COVID-19 complaint alleging an on-the-job hazard, we engage the employer about it. If we can get things straightened out from the get-go, then we will do that.
“However, if employers refuse to engage with us — or if they openly defy workplace health and safety standards — then the likelihood of an inspection markedly increases.”
Blac-N-Bleu has already made some changes following the complaint. The restaurant has set up outdoor seating for its customers and is only offering that or take-out service, according to its Facebook page.
A sign on the front door Monday listed eight workplace outbreaks in Douglas County, and said in part: “Not one case listed is from a restaurant, bar or gym. Our businesses are being attacked for trying to run just like everyone else. This needs to stop! We have the same rights!...What is not fair is restaurants, bars and gyms are having to sacrifice their businesses, but other businesses are allowed to stay open. This is discrimination and is against our constitutional rights. There is a double standard here that needs to be addressed…”
Fans of Blac-N-Bleu came to the defense of the restaurant, posting their comments on its Facebook page. Several people also criticized whomever notified OSHA about the potential infractions.
Here is a sampling of the more than three dozen comments posted to the site:
“Open or closed we have tried to support your business! ... Please do what you need to do. I hear getting a liquor license back is a tough process!” Kiten Grensky
“Such a great staff! I’m so glad you are making a statement. My work has been closed down for one year today. I support what you are doing. Keep moving forward.” Todd Boyd
“GOD people, if you are worried about eating out, then stay home!” Debbie Duxbury Horton
“Just leave us alone!” Ron McGuire
Corvin said there has been a recent uptick in enforcement activity involving restaurants, including some saying they’re going to openly disregard the COVID-19 requirements.
“If you do that you’re getting on our radar,” he said. “And we have a track record of inspections and issuing citations for that.”
He pointed to two restaurants in Florence that recently received more than $36,000 in fines combined for reportedly allowing indoor dining in violation of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Casey’s Restaurant has also continued to serve customers indoors in violation of the COVID-19 restrictions. OSHA has issued more than $14,000 in fines to the restaurant, which is appealing them.
“Relative to normal times, we’ve seen a pretty high number of willful violations during the pandemic,” Corvin said.