Two Florence restaurants fined thousands for alleged COVID-19 violations

OSHA has fined Little Brown Hen $17,800 and The Firehouse Restaurant $18,150 for willful violations of the state's public health measures.

Posted: Feb 24, 2021 12:31 PM
Updated: Feb 24, 2021 12:48 PM

FLORENCE, Ore. — A pair of restaurants in the coastal city of Florence face staggering fines from Oregon OSHA for "willful" violations of the state's coronavirus guidelines while Lane County was under "Extreme Risk" restrictions.

The Little Brown Hen Cafe faces a fine of $17,800. OSHA sent inspectors to the location after multiple complaints that the restaurant was continuing to allow indoor dining beginning around the end of December.

When inspectors visited the restaurant on January 4, OSHA said that they were met by a group of people standing outside the entrance, "one of whom carried a firearm." The inspectors were threatened and told to leave.

"The officers politely left. As the officers walked to their cars, the people outside the entrance followed them," OSHA said. "The people shouted at the officers as the officers left the parking lot."

OSHA administrator Michael Wood hit the restaurant with a $17,800 penalty — twice the minimum for a willful violation — as a deterrent for employers who "insist on disregarding public health measures," putting employees at risk and giving the employer an advantage over compliant businesses.

“Most employers are choosing to do the right thing,” Wood said, “even as they face very real economic hardships. As for those relatively few employers who are working against our shared project to defeat this disease, we will continue our enforcement work in the interest of accountability.”

Around the same time as the Little Brown Hen investigation, OSHA received complaints about The Firehouse Restaurant. Inspectors conducted interviews over the phone because of social media posts showing the "potential for armed people to block access to the business."

"Moreover, the investigation showed that some extremist groups were encouraging people to engage in violence against Oregon OSHA compliance officers if they visited the site," the agency said.

Wood also imposed a $17,800 fine on The Firehouse for the apparent willful violation, but added two smaller penalties because the owners did not develop an infection control plan or COVID-19 risk assessment — bringing the total fine to $18,150.

"The inspection of The Firehouse Restaurant found the business committing the violations on or about Dec. 26 and continuing to do so afterward. The inspection included an interview with Kylie McKenzie, manager of the restaurant," OSHA said. "McKenzie said she originally closed the business to the public, but later decided to re-open it, even though she was aware the decision went against measures to prevent the spread of the disease in an extreme-risk county."

Employers have 30 days to appeal the citations from OSHA.

Lane County is set to step down from Extreme to High Risk on Friday.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 173626

Reported Deaths: 2457
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah34641566
Washington23309229
Marion20037299
Clackamas15216204
Lane11478144
Jackson9846127
Umatilla795383
Deschutes698772
Linn410763
Yamhill407074
Malheur342558
Polk341752
Klamath340859
Josephine304262
Douglas302765
Benton272518
Jefferson205932
Coos196631
Columbia153326
Union141124
Lincoln129720
Wasco128628
Hood River112429
Morrow107815
Clatsop8838
Crook86819
Baker85114
Curry5919
Tillamook5763
Lake4137
Grant4044
Harney3046
Wallowa1575
Sherman570
Gilliam551
Wheeler251
Unassigned00

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Cases: 3714587

Reported Deaths: 60922
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles122811823601
Riverside2972154525
San Bernardino2944644544
San Diego2745663662
Orange2687624886
Santa Clara1167722013
Kern1077641317
Sacramento1010581646
Fresno1004311642
Alameda850891475
Ventura802301000
San Joaquin714311334
Contra Costa66839781
Stanislaus603061028
Tulare49383829
Monterey43260352
San Mateo41050560
San Francisco35947517
Santa Barbara33830446
Solano31875239
Merced31196452
Sonoma29632311
Imperial27920718
Kings22755245
Placer21751283
San Luis Obispo20917256
Madera16234239
Santa Cruz15554203
Marin13851226
Yolo13547199
Shasta11677217
Butte11529196
El Dorado9688109
Napa965479
Sutter9268109
Yuba609844
San Benito596963
Lassen566624
Tehama543056
Nevada444775
Tuolumne406664
Mendocino398747
Amador361646
Humboldt358737
Lake339943
Glenn235425
Colusa219216
Calaveras205551
Siskiyou194021
Inyo141738
Del Norte12747
Mono12734
Plumas6906
Modoc4884
Mariposa4197
Trinity3985
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