Ensure Discriminatory Odor Code Passes Smell Test

Target: Ted Wheeler, Mayor of Portland, OR

Goal: Raise standards for odor complaints and lessen possibility of targeted discrimination.

Something smelled rotten to lawmakers, community members, and restaurant organizations when persistent odor complaints led to the closing of a Portland Vietnamese restaurant. Pho Gabo, an eatery that had been in operation for five years, was shuttered by its owner after repeated corrective measures (including deep cleaning equipment and cooking off-site) failed to stop complaints from an anonymous community member. The complaints had reportedly led to multiple fines levied against the restaurant by city politicians.

Critics have blasted the region’s odor code for being too subjective and not beholden to rigorous standards like other nuisance issues. And advocates also contend that such complaints are often targeted toward minority-owned establishments. Opposition and revulsion to smells that invoke a specific culture’s cuisine are a long-standing form of stealth prejudice and racism, according to a group advocating for Asians and Pacific Islanders.

Portland’s commissioner has promised a review and potential update of the odor code. Sign the petition below to hold leaders to this pledge.


Dear Mayor Wheeler,

“We believe that, as currently written and enforced, the city’s odor code is discriminatory and not objective by any known standards.” Several Vietnamese American legislators — as well as a respected restaurant organization — raised this concern about a policy that allegedly forced the closure of a popular Vietnamese restaurant. “Long used as a tactic for displacing and removing Asian communities, olfactory racism has deep roots in this country dating back hundreds of years.” An Asian and Pacific Islander advocacy group likewise spoke out about the potential weaponization of and ramifications of this policy. “I am very concerned and am raising serious questions about the negative impacts of this policy.” And Portland Commissioner Carmen Rubio made the aforementioned vow.

The GoFundMe effort to aid the people behind Pho Gabo also speaks to the deep community concern regarding this matter. The Portland City Council will have final say in any potential updates. Please honor the concerns of so many individuals and approve changes that can help end a hidden threat against minority-owned businesses.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Ji-Elle

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