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After ‘spirited’ testimony, OLCC OKs disputed ‘floor pricing’ for distilled spirits

Restaurant organization opposes move; agency cites competing factors

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- After listening to what it termed "spirited testimony," the Oregon Liquor Control Commission on Thursday approved a disputed "floor pricing" proposal for distilled spirits, which increases the price of the lowest priced spirits sold in Oregon liquor stores.

Here's the rest of the OLCC news release on the decision and meeting;

The wine industry also provided the Commission an overview of its plan to recover from the pandemic and to return the industry to the growth trajectory it was on in 2019. Additionally, the Commission approved one stipulated settlement agreement for an alcohol licensee that had violated social distancing requirements covered by Governor Brown’s COVID-19 executive orders.

Earlier this year, in response to public health concerns around alcohol addiction, the OLCC proposed implementing a “floor” for the lowest priced spirits sold by the commission. In the weeks leading up to the commission meeting, the agency received approximately 500 written comments about the proposal. The Commission framed the issue as balancing business interests with public health concerns.

OLCC Executive Director Steven Marks outlined the reasoning behind the proposal. During the pandemic, the OLCC loosened alcohol regulations which have provided Oregonians with easier access to liquor.

“We increased delivery and availability in the face of COVID,” said Marks. “We became intently aware of the state’s alcohol problem and the impact that alcohol was having on Oregon itself. We principally put this forward as an option because it’s what we could do on the public health front. We control the pricing policy.”

Public health advocates and addiction researchers testified in favor of proposed floor pricing, citing research that shows increased prices drive down purchases. “Increasing the price of alcohol is an effective, evidence-based strategy that we can now take to reduce excessive alcohol use,” said Dr. Reginald Richardson, chair of the Oregon Alcohol Drug and Policy Commission.

Liquor store owners voiced their support by pointing out that low-priced distilled spirits are “loss leaders” that are favored by customers who have addiction issues.

However, the hospitality industry and business groups affiliated with alcohol licensees said floor pricing jeopardizes the hospitality industry’s fragile recovery. Opponents testified that they believe it’s the wrong time for increasing bar and restaurant operating costs.

“Now is not the time to make it more difficult for bars and restaurants to do business and serve customers. Let’s build on the good will of the accomplishments of the past year,” said Greg Astley from the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Commissioners raised concerns about other price hike proposals being discussed at the Legislature and the impact on Oregon small businesses. “We’re all concerned citizens on this commission,” said Commission Chair Paul Rosenbaum. “We are certainly aware of the terrible and difficult circumstances facing restaurant and bar owners in this state. We’re also aware of the drug and alcohol addiction, as well, in this state. So there’s competing factors.”

The commissioners ultimately voted to approve floor pricing, which will take effect July 1.

Oregon wine industry representatives provided commissioners with their plan to recover from pandemic and wildfire impacts, which they estimate reduced wine businesses’ revenues by about 20 percent. In fact, before the pandemic the industry was generating $7.21 billion in economic impact for the state and Oregon wines were continuing their ascent in world-class stature.

Fortunately, grape growers were able to partner with Oregon State University to swiftly test whether wine grapes had been impacted by smoke from the wildfires, enabling growers to make informed business decisions about their harvest.

To recover from the pandemic, the industry is launching a marketing campaign called “True Character,” to bring consumers back to Oregon wines and tourists back to Oregon wineries. The industry expects wine tourism will initially be limited to short-distance in-state travelers, and expects the overall recovery to be gradual in relation to the post pandemic comeback.

The Commission also ratified violation fines and suspensions based on stipulated settlements (detailed information on specific cases can be found here on the OLCC website).

Route 99 Roadhouse (F-COM license) in Canby engaged in activity that violated Executive Order 20-66 when they allowed indoor on-premises consumption and did not require patrons and/or staff to wear masks. Licensee also violated Phase II Guidance for Restaurants and Bars when at least six feet of physical distancing was not maintained between patrons, or between patrons and employees. Further, the licensee permitted disorderly activities on the licensed premises, when Licensee repeatedly blocked an undercover OLCC inspector’s ability to exit while the inspector attempted to leave the premises and concealed evidence. Licensee accepts responsibility for the violations and will either pay a $5,775.00 civil penalty and serve a 10-day suspension OR serve a 45-day suspension.

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      1. Last time two opposing groups tried, they both failed. Maybe if the people would come together, a new and less restrictive government would be possible.

    1. Wait they are helping the poor by curing thier alcoholism. Because everyone knows if an addict can’t afford something they just quit…or they start stealing. Either way the olcc wants everyone to know “they are in charge”.

  1. What are we, Utah? Why is the OLCC always so strict?? Liquor laws here are way more strict than California or Washington. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

    1. The olcc has a storied past here in Central Oregon. Statewide, the culture of the OLCC is not one of cooperation, but of conflict and intimidation.

  2. Alcohol is a huge problem and if this helps stop one person from drinking it’s worth it. If you don’t have a drinking problem than this shouldn’t be an issue.

    1. How trite. The ol’ “if it saves just one life” justification.

      We could cut off people’s hands too – that would surely stop at least one person from drinking so it must be a good idea!

      Who could argue against Common Sense©?

    2. It is ironic that the political class who most cry out the loudest against income inequality would pass legislation which falls most directly on those with the least ability to pay. Progressives in Oregon stereotype low income individuals as alcoholics, when most are just people enjoying adult beverages who cannot afford expensive brands. This law will have it’s greatest impact on the poorest among us while having absolutely no impact on the richest among us. Next there will be legislation prohibiting all alcohol purchase unless you can demonstrate your income is 200% above the poverty level.

  3. The state of Oregon is turning disgusting. Once a decent place to live is quickly turning into a rich only paradise thanks to the Liberal minded Jerks in charge! I was born & raised here & am sickened by what it’s turning into. Queen Kate & all her jesters will be the end of Oregon. Good luck to the middle income guy. Soon maybe you’ll be parked down with the rest of the growing homeless.

  4. An extra dollar for a fifth of Potters vodka won’t stop the am drinkers and they know it. Simply an easy money grab by the authorities in the guise of concern for the peoples health and well being.

  5. So Kovid Kate’s Ex. Orders cost the wine industry in Oregon 1.4 Billion dollars worth of business ??? Once again- I’d like to see the actual financial numbers- personal bankruptcy- emotional damage that Brown has created with her shutdowns-lockdowns-school closures and violations of our Constitutional rights… So I can prove once and for all that this historic and catastrophic event is more than what the Moderator termed it “a mere annoyance” ! Now wait for the denials !

      1. You know… I checked… and yer right… actually what you said was “We’ve reported on the struggles folks are undergoing”… So technically you didn’t say a “mere annoyance”- you said its a “struggle”… like a fat guy trying to get into a pair of XL bicycle shorts or more like a small pair of speedo trunks ???

        1. Don’t blame the moderator, please. In his defense, he has no idea anymore exactly to whom he answers too! The lines between Advertising revenue, Political affiliation, and reporting facts have become extremely jumbled as of late for News-Press & Gazette!

        1. Nah. It just shows again that I let him say most of the crud he wants to say. If I deleted all of his attacks on me/others, there’d be few of his left. Just because I have to call him on his untruths when it comes to me personally doesn’t mean he “owns my brain.” My new cat Oreo has more of my attention than he ever will. She deserves it, too, as do my wife and my colleagues. Only one parallel – he’s never going to quit bugging me here, unless my supervisors – not me – decide this isn’t worth the time and effort. And his constant cries for the evil governor to be ousted aren’t going anywhere, either.

  6. This is all about the money. The state gets more money by hiking up the price. The state licensed liquor stores get more money by making customers buy the more expensive higher margin liquor. It’s a win-win-lose. The solution is to get the state out of the prohibition era liquor business and back to a purely regulatory responsility and to open liquor sales to grocery and other outlets.

  7. So the OLCC is helping “unlicensed pharmacists” increase sales of meth and cocaine by increasing the price of cheap plonk.
    They’ll get my bottle of Old Overshoes when they pry it out of my cold dead liver.

  8. Raising prices on the cheaper booze to get alcoholics to quit is just like raising prices on cigarettes to get people to quit. Only difference is its easier to quit smoking than it is to quit drinking. Hard core alcoholics will just find other ways to make sure they can afford their booze, like buying their kids or pets less food.

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