CEO: Rising crime spurs closure of SE Portland Burgerville

CEO: Rising crime spurs closure of SE Portland Burgerville

The Portland Tribune and Pamplin Media Group’s papers are a KOIN 6 News media partner

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE/KOIN) — Burgerville has locked the doors of its Lents area eatery in Southeast Portland.

The closure — billed as temporary — comes after “many months” of worsening conditions at the neighborhood burger joint, 3504 S.E. 92nd Ave., due to rising problems with crime and vandalism, the company said in an Aug. 3 statement.

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.

While there’s no timeline for reopening, Burgerville CEO Jill Taylor said all employees at the shuttered storefront have been offered jobs at nearby locations.

“I will always put the safety and security of our employees first,” Taylor said. “It is not just Burgerville. Other businesses are being impacted, too. There is a humanitarian crisis happening throughout our region, and we need to come together around solutions.”

Burgerville owns the Lents property outright via its privately held owner, The Holland Inc., records show. The location is one of five that has sought to unionize since 2016, though no deal between labor and management has ever been signed.

Reached for comment, union officials said the closure of restaurant No. 41 “comes as a complete shock” to workers who did not receive a hint of warning.

“We will be meeting with our legal counsel and allies to see how best to move forward and to ascertain if this is supported by our membership at store 41 or not,” the officials said. “These decisions should come with the consent of employees, in tandem with the democratically elected representatives of employees on how to resolve the issue.”

After 60 years in business, Burgerville now boasts 1,000 employees and some 40 locations. The company has no current plans to expand. It has restaurants at three other locations in Portland, as well as in the adjacent suburbs of Gresham and Milwaukie.

“My hope is this will be a temporary closure, and that we can work with the leaders in Multnomah County, the city of Portland, and the state of Oregon to improve conditions in communities throughout the Northwest,” Taylor said.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office shared the following statement with KOIN 6 News:

“We take situations like this very seriously. Community safety is one of the Mayor’s top priorities and it’s unfortunate anytime people and businesses in our community feel unsafe. We continue working with the Portland Police Bureau to identify resources and solutions to improve safety citywide.”

The Burgerville Workers Union said news of the closure came as a complete surprise.

“This comes as a complete shock to us and our members as no previous mention of such an action was ever hinted at, we are in contact with BVWU membership at 41 as to how best assist them and seek to be in as immediate contact with the company as to how quickly this issue can be remedied,” the union said in a statement. “We will be meeting with our legal counsel and allies to see how best to move forward, we will be filing a ULP for unilateral changes to working conditions. These decisions should come with the consent of employees, in tandem with the democratically elected representatives of workers on how to resolve the issue, not a surprise announcement with no input. We fear the company is seeking to invoke a sweep in the area rather than work with community to assist and house those in need or to use this as an excuse to shut down a union shop. We stand with our members, our community, and want an amicable solution together when we meet on the 9th that assists our members AND assists not hurts those suffering housing insecurity”

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