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  Springfield bar Twisted River Saloon liquor license suspended for violating indoor dining rules   Oregon fines Twisted River Saloon in Springfield $18,000 for violating COVID-19 rules  

Story by The Oregon Herald Staff
Published on Tuesday April 13, 2021 - 10:55 AM

SALEM, Oregon - OSHA has fined Twisted River Saloon in Springfield $18,430 for violating three standards designed to protect employees from the coronavirus disease. In one of the violations, the employer willfully continued to potentially expose workers to the virus, despite a public health order limiting the capacity of indoor dining to zero in an "extreme risk" county.

The citation resulted from an inspection launched in response to multiple complaints about Twisted River Saloon (its legal name is JGB Enterprises LLC). The inspection documented the fact that the company, operating in Lane County, willfully began allowing indoor dining beginning on or around Jan. 4, 2021, and continuing until Feb. 26, 2021. During that time, Lane County has designated an "extreme risk" for transmission of the disease.

During the inspection, the business owner, James Butt, said he chose to reopen the restaurant, even though he was aware that it went against workplace health requirements.

Using his discretionary authority under state law, Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood imposed a $17,800 penalty for the willful violation. That is twice the minimum penalty for such a violation. The decision reflects the need to ensure a more appropriate deterrent effect where employers insist on disregarding health and safety standards.

Such willful behaviour puts employees at risk and enables the employer to achieve a competitive advantage over businesses that comply with the requirements.

"Most employers in Oregon are striving to do the right thing by following on-the-job safety standards designed to reduce the risk to workers of COVID-19. We thank them for their efforts as part of a project we all share to defeat this virus," said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. "As for those employers that insist on disregarding standards and putting workers at risk, we will continue to take enforcement action where appropriate."

Altogether, Oregon OSHA cited three violations of the division's temporary rule to address COVID-19 risks in the workplace:

In allowing indoor dining, Twisted River Saloon knowingly chose to disregard capacity limitations imposed by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) for such establishments in a county designated as extreme risk. It was a willful violation, carrying a discretionary penalty of $17,800. The company failed to develop and implement an infection control plan. Such a plan could include redesigning the workspace to enable physical distancing and reducing the use of shared surfaces and tools. It was a serious violation, carrying a penalty of $315. The company did not conduct any COVID-19 risk assessment to identify potential employee exposure to the virus and to address how to reduce such exposure. It was a serious violation, carrying a penalty of $315. Ongoing refusals to correct violations and come into compliance with workplace health and safety standards can lead to additional higher penalties. Meanwhile, if an Oregon OSHA inspection documents violations while a county is at extreme risk, but the county's risk level drops before the citation is issued, the citation will still be issued. The change in risk levels may affect how the violation needs to be corrected, but not whether it is cited.

Employers have 30 days to appeal citations.

In addition to its enforcement activities, Oregon OSHA offers employers and workers a variety of consultation, information, and education resources addressing COVID-19.