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OLCC tells alcohol licensees: Keep your ‘distance,’ or you could face quick suspension

OLCC logo 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- At a special meeting on Friday, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission approved a temporary rule requiring OLCC alcohol licensees to abide by the governor’s directives regarding facial coverings and social distancing requirements -- or face the possibility of an immediate suspension of their license.

The public health guidelines apply statewide and have been implemented to reduce the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus, the OLCC said Saturday.

Since the 4th of July holiday weekend, OLCC compliance staff have been observing face covering and social distancing compliance. This work is in addition to their regular duties – checking compliance with OLCC statutes and rules – at bars, restaurants and retailers selling beer, wine and cider to go.

According to OLCC inspectors, compliance has improved since the enforcement started.

Between July 3rd and July 18th, OLCC inspectors visited 2,371 businesses with liquor licensees and gave verbal instructions to 163 licensees, or about 7% of the businesses inspected.

During that time frame, the OLCC referred 27 cases of alcohol licensees failing to follow social distancing and face covering standards to Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OR OSHA). Previously, only OR OSHA had authority to penalize businesses not following the rules.

But OLCC inspectors also report there are licensees persistently and flagrantly choosing not to follow the requirements. The commission's action will allow the OLCC to immediately suspend the license of a licensee if they have been non-responsive to OLCC’s verbal instructions and/or OR OSHA action.

“Most retailers and those in the hospitality industry are making sure they’re protecting the health of their communities, safeguarding their employees and customers, and taking proper precautions to stay open,” said Steve Marks, OLCC's executive director. “For those licensees that choose to jeopardize public health, and the state’s economic health – you’ve been given fair warning.”

The OLCC took a similar enforcement approach in April, when it immediately suspended the liquor licenses of The Sportsman Tavern in Cave Junction and the Los Arcos Mexican Grill in Salem for violating the governor’s executive orders, which at the time halted the sale of alcohol for consumption in bars and restaurants.

Both licensees have since settled their charges with the OLCC. Los Arcos paid a $4,125 fine and The Sportsman Tavern paid a $7,095 fine.

The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association testified to the commission that hospitality industry operators have made a significant investment of time, energy and money to implement the required social distancing guidelines.

ORLA told commissioners that it supports the OLCC taking action against hospitality industry members that are intentionally not following the rules.

“We simply cannot let the actions of a few operators result in another statewide industry shut down,” said Greg Astley, ORLA's director of government affairs. “It puts thousands of industry small businesses and jobs at risk.

"We need these standards to be upheld so we can continue to remain open. Taking a more surgical approach in shutting down establishments in our industry that are intentionally skirting the rules is just an unfortunate reality we have to deal with head-on.”

The chair of the OLCC Commission expressed concern that the agency is taking on additional responsibilities, while at the same time leaving critical positions unfilled, including three compliance inspector positions and three licensing investigator positions.

In addition to expanded compliance activity, the OLCC is experiencing an increase in liquor licensing activity as bars and restaurants make physical and operational changes to their businesses. OLCC has left 22 positions vacant in anticipation of the Legislature requesting state agencies to make budget cuts.

“You’ve got six positions that are vitally important in terms of carrying this out, because you’re way understaffed to begin with,” said Paul Rosenbaum, OLCC chair. “We’re bringing in revenue to the state. We’re doing all of the work that needs to be done. We really can’t afford to lose these positions, because when you lose these positions, it’s a matter of public health, it’s a matter of public safety, and it’s a matter of revenue.”

OLCC Commissioner Kiauna Floyd represents alcohol licensees on the commission, and is herself a restaurant operator. Floyd complimented the majority of the industry for innovating to re-open and keep staff and patrons safe.  But she admonished the handful of licensees whose actions threaten public health, and the livelihood of industry employees, many who’ve been unemployed since the start of the pandemic.

“If you are, in fact, throwing caution to the wind and in fact choosing not to comply with the rules and safety guidelines required of industry, shame on you,” Floyd said. “It is completely, completely unacceptable, and your actions are putting Oregon’s hospitality industry in jeopardy.”

The temporary rule takes effect immediately, but it will not be applied to the OLCC licensees whose cases the OLCC has already referred to OR OSHA.

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      1. LOL!! Why let science, doctors and research scientists get in the way of a chance to infect and kill an at risk senior or obese mother!! Remember what poor old fat rusch limberger said: “its a cold, the common cold” poorly educated regressive hillbllies understand that an obese cigar smoking prescription drug addict who is dying of lung cancer knows a heck of a lot more about medicine and the virus than America’s top scientists and research labs. As kaylee mcninny said: “we don’t want science to get in the way of opening schools” Lying, dying and denying, its the patriotic thing to do, if you hate America!!!
        golf and a whore anyone!! trump/putin 2020!!! HELSINKI PROUD!!! ROTFLMAO!!

          1. Well about a thousand times more accurate than say… Trump or one of his Trumpanzees. Now go inject some disinfectant along with Nick 87 please. Thank goodness for natural selection right? Boy you Trump lovers sure have a weird way of “Keeping America Great” don’t ya?

    1. Yes, so fake that close friends of mine in Florida contracted it. One of my very good friends nearly lost his mother in law. They to put her on oxygen and anti-biotics for pneumonia at home since the hospital had no room. She was close do death a couple of times. Real fake. Wake up and be a real human being.

  1. Drink ’em up before they shut ’em down! I got a facemask with an integrated straw in it so I can pound booze at the bars while being Covid compliant. Horseshoe here I come!!

  2. Again…need to look at the ‘benevolent’ organizations in Prineville. Not a mask in sight, no social distancing, bingo, bands, dinners and dances. Business as usual in Prineville!

    1. again… there has not been a single corona-bat-joe-Wuhan virus traced back to the “benevolent” organizations you speak of- you seem to have a personal vendetta of some kind.

  3. First the state ruined the restaurant and bar owners businesses and now they are going to fine you on top of ruining your business. Feel owned yet sheeple? Meanwhile “peaceful protesting” is encouraged by Brownstain and her cronies…The good news is that these idiots are eventually going to run out of our money.

  4. The real problem is the Trump supporter. They are the ones who should be fined and shut down for their constant denial that is putting society at risk. However, I think it is wrong of OLCC to put service employees in the role of law enforcement. Either have police enforce this between the patrons within the establishments, or don’t enforce it. DO NOT penalize the establishments for lack of enforcement as that is not (and should not be) a job requirement for employees. Period.

    1. Service employees are already in the role of law enforcement. Why should employees not be required to enforce this particular law (whether they agree with it or not)? They enforce the law against serving minors, overserving patrons, Oregon lottery, etc. Why pick and choose which laws they enforce and which they ‘choose’ to ignore? We already penalize establishments for lack of enforcement of OLCC laws and that IS the job requirement for employees. Go take a class to become a server…you will see that enforcing the law is something they agree to when they apply for and accept a ‘servers permit’. This ‘permission’ carries a heavy moral obligation to ensure laws and regulations are followed. Again, there is no middle ground. Part of the problem or part of the solution. Period.

      1. Defund the cops!!! Call the cops cuz that jerk ain’t wearing a mask!!!!

        “We cut 5 positions and 12 vehicles due to budget cuts. We won’t be responding to non-emergency calls””….bend cops

        “we’ll be right there”….bend cops in response to not wearing a mask complaint

        Something’s gotta give alright. You and you’re kind keep forcing your crap on us and see what gives

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