A Northwest Portland hair salon is one of several Oregon businesses listed in a federal lawsuit against Gov. Kate Brown for requiring temporary business closures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
"I do not agree that a complete halt to my business is required, and it threatens my livelihood more and more with each passing day," reads a statement by Teri Schudel—a "hair extension artist" who operates her business (under the name Da Cielo LLC) out of a Sola Salon Studios franchise shop in the Pearl District—included in the lawsuit file.
Attorney James Buchal filed the complaint Tuesday afternoon on behalf of nine other Oregon businesses, including a Hood River tattoo parlor, a Salem furniture shop, and a Roseburg lingerie boutique. The lawsuit accuses Brown of violating a spate of constitutional rights by "arbitrarily" deciding which businesses are essential to remain open during a pandemic.
On March 23, Brown issued an order mandating the closure of "non-essential" businesses, unless they could adhere to social distancing rules. That mandate is still in place, and will only begin to be lifted on a regional basis starting May 15, if a county can demonstrate a serious drop in positive COVID-19 cases.
Buchal argues that Oregon businesses should have been given an opportunity to appeal their identification as a "non-essential" business by the state.
"Instead of a government of laws, we have a totem pole of rights depending on your identity group, and the rights of ordinary Americans who just want to make a living are at the bottom of that totem pole," writes Buchal in a press release accompanying the lawsuit.
Buchal also serves as the chair of the Multnomah County Republican Party, and has been vocal about his opposition to Brown's business restrictions through that platform as well.
The lawsuit goes on to accuse Brown of intentionally limiting businesses owned by Republican Oregonians and "irrationally" making decisions without consulting Oregon medical professionals (Brown has consistently followed guidance from Oregon's top hospital physicians and public health experts in writing executive orders related to COVID-19).
It also argues that, at 127, the state's death toll from COVID-19 isn't high enough to elicit a serious response—and that the economic impact from COVID-19 could result in the same number of deaths, "if not higher."
"The conduct here will drive untold numbers of individual citizens to take their own lives in despair as the enterprises or careers they have spent their lives building are arbitrarily destroyed," the complaint reads. "It should shock the Court to find that [through] the rubric of reducing the risk of infection...the Governor has in substance sentenced many Oregonians to death and misery."
It's implied that Schudel of Sola Salon is one of those Oregonians. In her submitted testimony, Schudel says her store's closure has impacted her ability to pay monthly bills and to keep clients.
"I am fearful for my economic future, and believe it is a violation of my fundamental Constitutional rights to the freedom to make a living to be shut down when I am healthy and there are many less restrictive ways for Oregon to address the public health problems raised by COVID-19," Schudel writes.
UPDATE — May 13:
The Mercury received an email from a spokesperson for Sola Salon Studio—a national chain with more than 500 franchise locations—clarifying Schudel's relationship with their business and objecting to her statements regarding the Portland store. We'll let the store speak for itself:
"Ms. Schudel is an independent beauty professional who rents space in the Pearl District location and acted independently in filing the lawsuit against Gov. Brown without our knowledge or the knowledge of the local franchisee. Ms. Schudel is not the owner or operator of the Sola Salon Studios Pearl District location. Sola Salon Studios fully intends to keep locations closed until state and local officials allow us to reopen and, even then, local franchisees will only reopen their buildings if the appropriate safety measures are in place. They will also allow independent beauty professionals operating in their locations to return to work when they choose to."
Read the full complaint here.