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Oregon OSHA fines second Florence restaurant for violating COVID-19 orders

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Oregon issued an $18,150 fine Wednesday for the Firehouse Restaurant in Florence for allegedly violating the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Wednesday’s action was the second roughly $18,000 fine in as many days for restaurants in the coastal town that had reportedly allowed indoor dining while Lane County remained in the “extreme risk” category of coronavirus restrictions. The first fine was issued to the Little Brown Hen Café on Tuesday.

According to a statement from OSHA, both restaurants “willfully continued to potentially expose workers to the virus, despite a public health order limiting the capacity of indoor dining to zero.”

The employment safety agency reported receiving complaints about both restaurants around Dec. 26.

Oregon OSHA administrator Michael Wood said the Florence restaurants are an outlier from most businesses in the state, which have followed COVID-19 safety guidelines to limit spread of the deadly disease.

On Tuesday, OSHA described a tense effort to inspect the Little Brown Hen Café. Inspectors that visited the building were reportedly confronted by at least one armed person and several others who threatened the inspectors and barred their entrance to the building.

In the case of the Firehouse restaurant, inspectors conducted their investigation by phone.

“That decision was made after an investigation of social media posts and websites discovered the potential for armed people to block access to the business,” OSHA said in statement Wednesday. “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.”

Both restaurants have 30 days to appeal their fines. On Tuesday, Gov. Kate Brown announced that Lane County would be moving from the “extreme risk” category to “high risk” beginning on Friday. That change will allow restaurants to open for some indoor dining.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting