Burgerville is a chain that has about 40 locations, 20 of which are in Portland. Yesterday the CEO announced that one of those restaurants would be closing temporarily because of the rising crime and problems related to homelessness in the area.
The iconic Pacific Northwest chain says it hired private security in an effort to improve employee and customer safety, but to no avail.
“The environment around the restaurant has deteriorated seriously,” a company spokesperson told the Tribune. “Police are now being called daily. Burgerville employees have found weapons, drug paraphernalia and human waste on the property.”
The neon-hued fast-food restaurant shares a border with the Interstate 205 multi-use path and an Oregon Department of Transportation buffer that has hosted large homeless encampments this year. The responsibility for clearing camps on ODOT land within city limits falls on Portland officials, not the state, however.
This particular Burgerville was the first fast food chain restaurant to unionize. The union said they had no idea this was coming, describing it as a “complete shock.” There’s some hint coming from the union that maybe the company has an ulterior motive.
But Burgerville CEO Jill Taylor said the closure isn’t about the union, it’s about the safety of workers and patrons. “I will always put the safety and security of our employees first,” she said. She added, “It is not just Burgerville. Other businesses are being impacted, too.” And there’s really no doubt that’s the case. The owner of another business adjacent to Burgerville said the homeless situation has become a real problem.
“We are right next to a path that leads to the MAX station and you know, you have children and families walking on that path next, all the way up to the MAX station. And over the last year-and-a- half or so, we’ve had a number of tents just stack up right in the area,” Burke said. “It started with one and we now have about 20, just along the path going up as I mentioned to the MAX station. And the unfortunate thing is you know you have families and children that are walking up the path and at any time you can find hundreds of needles.”
He said they’ve reached out to Mayor Wheeler and County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson but have not received any response.
“The homeless crisis is certainly a very serious situation in Portland. We all know it, we’ve all been impacted by that, but this is really not the place to have a homeless camps right next to our businesses,” Burke said.
Just today there is a report about a man being arrested after making threats inside a McDonald’s restaurant which is about 400 feet away from the Burgerville that just closed.
According to court documents, 35-year-old Justin Harrison was trespassing Monday afternoon when the owner of the McDonald’s on Southeast Powell Boulevard asked Harrison to leave.
Portland Police said the owner who is black was called a racial slur several times by Harrison who also said “If you don’t get your black (epithet) away, I’ll kill you and burn down this building.”
Harrison then took out a knife, threatened the owner again and dragged the knife across the owner’s car before he was arrested. The news report doesn’t specifically say that Harrison is homeless but it’s a safe bet that’s the case.
Meanwhile, things are even worse in downtown Portland. Business owners there have started hiring private security and buying bullet-proof vests.
With shootings on the rise and law enforcement stretched thin, multiple businesses in downtown Portland, Ore. tell KATU they’re taking safety into their own hands. That includes adding bulletproof vests for staff…
Multiple nightclubs in downtown Portland tell us they've invested in bulletproof vests and armed security. Some locations, like Candy, are also patting down customers who come in the door. They tell us with recent violence in the neighborhood, it's time to make changes. pic.twitter.com/gwTUkgFRc0
— Megan Allison (@mallisonKATU) July 27, 2021
Other businesses have been begging the city for more help. Mayor Wheeler says he is now going to fight for resources for more police officers but he’s having trouble finding officers to fill some of the jobs. Surprise! Cops don’t want to work in a city that hates the police.
My guess is it’s going to take many more months and possibly years for Portland to recover from the lawlessness and anti-police sentiment that the city encouraged last year. In that time, some of the business unfortunately aren’t going to survive.