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Oregon Coast restaurant fined $17,800 for violating indoor dining restrictions

The owner of The New Blue Hen, which does business as Little Brown Hen, allowed indoor dining when it was prohibited in December and January, according to OSHA.
Credit: KEZI

FLORENCE, Ore. — A restaurant in Florence, on the central Oregon Coast, was fined $17,800 for potentially exposing employees to COVID-19 by having indoor dining when it was prohibited earlier this year, according to the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

After reports of safety concerns, two compliance offers with Oregon OSHA began the inspection process of The New Blue Hen, which does business as Little Brown Hen, on Jan. 4. 

When compliance officers arrived at the restaurant, they were met by several people standing outside the entrance, including a person who was armed, Oregon OSHA said. The compliance officers identified themselves and asked to speak with the business owner. The officers were threatened and told to leave, Oregon OSHA said. 

The people at the entrance followed the officers as they walked back to their car and shouted at them as they drove away, according to Oregon OSHA.

Through their investigation, compliance officers said the employer committed violations beginning on or about Dec. 26, 2020, and continued to do so afterward. The officers also spoke with the owner over the phone on Jan. 5, and OSHA said the owner told officers she understood the public health rules regarding COVID-19 in Lane County, which was considered an extreme risk county at the time, meaning indoor dining was not allowed.

Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood imposed a $17,800 penalty, which is twice the minimum penalty for a willful violation.

“The decision reflects the need to ensure a more appropriate deterrent effect where employers insist on disregarding public health measures,” Oregon OSHA said in a press release. “Such willful behavior puts employees at risk and enables the employer to achieve a competitive advantage over businesses that choose to comply with workplace health and safety standards.”

The owner has 30 days to appeal the fine.