Monday, July 21, 2008

Self-serve alcohol not allowed under Oregon statute

The perspectives on self-serve are derived from years of study into public safety and the positive effects of human interaction during alcohol purchases. Recently, a new product, the Enomatic Wine Preservation System has appeared in the Northwest. The machine provides a longer shelf-life and a measured pour, reducing waste and saving money. An extra feature is the Enomatic Wine Card, which allows a patron to purchase a pre-paid card then self-serve their wine at the machine.

Every Oregon business that serves alcohol is required by Oregon statute to have a person with a valid service permit sell, mix and dispense alcoholic beverages. As long as a valid service permit holder dispenses the wine, the Enomatic Wine Preservation System is legally compliant. Several machines are currently being used in Oregon, but they are behind the bar and are operated legally by servers with valid permits. It is worth mentioning that the Enomatic Wine Card can also serve a function behind the bar to prevent inventory shrinkage and monitor employee's transactions. In this scenario, it is still required that a valid service-permit holder dispense the wine.

On-premises liquor licensees, their managers and servers are required to complete an OLCC-approved Alcohol Server Education class and submit a service permit application in order to obtain a valid service permit. The core emphasis of the alcohol server education class is to inform and educate class participants about:
  • the basic liquor laws of Oregon,
  • how to recognize visibly intoxicated people (VIPs)
  • techniques on how to refuse alcohol service or remove an alcohol drink from a VIP
  • how to prevent minors from obtaining alcohol
  • how to properly check ID

The intent is to have a person who is trained to detect and prevent visibly intoxicated individuals and minors from being served alcohol; this is accomplished in part through verbal interaction with these customers. These educational training requirements also include recognizing the fifty signs of visible intoxication. This machine is not capable of detecting those signs.

While the machine is sophisticated and great for storing and preserving wine, it can't tell you the age of the person holding the card or whether that person is intoxicated at the time they are pouring the wine. If a customer gives his or her card to another customer, the machine would not know the difference. Alcohol is a drug that impairs judgment. People who are consuming alcohol can't be expected to monitor their own service and behavior. Most people can agree that reducing the carnage and grief of injuries and death on our roadways because of over-service of alcohol or service to minors is a good thing. The OLCC is charged with enforcing the liquor laws of the state, and it's a state law passed by the legislature that says a person has to serve the alcohol, and that person has to pass an Alcohol Server Education class and have a service permit.

Respectfully,

Thomas B. Erwin
OLCC Government Affairs Director

14 comments:

  1. As a pretty hardcore binge drinker (I'll admit it, I have a problem, but at least I don't drive or start fights), there have been plenty of times when I've waddled up to a bar in no state to be ordering more booze. But guess how many times I've been turned down? Zero!

    Your stings on sales to minors seem to help keep that down (I'm 30 and regularly carded). But I suppose it's a lot harder to do "drunk stings", since you'd have to be actually wasted in order to legally write a ticket.

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  2. I'd love to see some posts about the history of the OLCC and some justification for why the OLCC is still needed.

    The OLCC is constantly vilified, but we never hear the reasons the OLCC is a good idea!

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  3. self-serve wine just seems like a really odd service model in general. unless it was some kind of futuristic automat airport frequent flier lounge.

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  4. This ruling makes no sense at all. The cards would be monitored by someone licensed by the OLCC and the machines limit the user to a MAXIMUM of 10 1oz. pours in 2 hours. That is less than two glasses... I can order more than that at any restaurant! I really wish the OLCC would reverse this decision and at least take another look at it. If anything, the machine does a better job at regulating samples than a person.

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  5. I just go to the Greek Cuisina and get hammered now... been doing it since I was 16!

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  6. Attn: Thomas Erwin, OLCC Government Affairs Director

    Here’s my response to your OLCC blog entry of July 21, 2008 entitled Self-serve alcohol not allowed in Oregon. The timing of your piece certainly causes me to suspect that it is intended to be a reply to the public outcry that has occurred regarding the OLCC’s injustice levied upon the AgriVino Wine Center in Carlton, Oregon. As the owner of that facility I remain entirely dumbfounded by the actions of your organization in this matter as well as the audacity and variety of subsequent efforts that, in my considered opinion, the OLCC has engaged in order to obfuscate facts and distort the truth. I’ll be curious to see if you’ll print this without edits.

    The dialogue immediately below is the concluding paragraph to your blog entry and it is excerpted verbatim as contained in the above entitled article. I’m including a reprint of that item so that people can readily connect the dots between your statements and my commentary:

    “While the machine is sophisticated and great for storing and preserving wine, it can't tell you the age of the person holding the card or whether that person is intoxicated at the time they are pouring the wine. If a customer gives his or her card to another customer, the machine would not know the difference. Alcohol is a drug that impairs judgment. People who are consuming alcohol can't be expected to monitor their own service and behavior. Most people can agree that reducing the carnage and grief of injuries and death on our roadways because of over-service of alcohol or service to minors is a good thing. The OLCC is charged with enforcing the liquor laws of the state, and it's a state law passed by the legislature that says a person has to serve the alcohol, and that person has to pass an Alcohol Server Education class and have a service permit.” – Thomas Erwin, July 2008

    1. “…it can’t tell you the age of the person holding the card…” – Mr. Erwin, don’t you suppose that’s why we have a number of licensed staff in place to first CHECK I.D. for age verification, then ISSUE the card and thereafter continue to actively MONITOR each customers’ consumption? Incidentally, show me any other facility in the state with more or better controls. By the way, our facility is an education based wine tasting room and NOT a bar. Does the OLCC recognize that there’s actually a very clear distinction between the two?
    2. “If a customer gives his or her card to another customer…” – We are prepared such that IF this should occur, our staff has the instant capacity to invalidate the patron’s card by electronically disabling it; we don’t even have to confront the customer to do so. What’s more is that the OLCC knows that. Show me any another facility that can cut off a customer’s intake so quickly and without question or complicity from the patron. Incidentally, did I mention that this is a wine TASTING ROOM and not a bar? Nobody is coming here to get drunk!
    3. “Alcohol is a drug that impairs judgment.” – If impaired judgment is what is at issue here and alcohol is the sole predicator to poor judgment, might it be equally reasonable to conclude that all employees of the OLCC are alcoholics? Come on, Tom, sober up and give the public a little more credit instead of treating us all like morons. If this be the OLCC’s legitimate stand then it wouldn’t it make greater sense that the agency would be supportive of a place like ours that’s specifically designed as a wine culture, wine education and wine industry concierge facility? Ours is easily the best model of temperance and consumption control in the state. It is, however, not and never will be a bar! Maybe because we’re NOT a bar is the reason you guys cannot understand our simple yet effective business model and our incorporation of the Enomatic machinery which apparently renders a sensible and adult interpretation of the issue beyond the OLCC’s ability to comprehend.
    4. “People who are consuming alcohol can’t be expected to monitor their own service and behavior.” – Notwithstanding the Orwellian “Big Brother” type implications of this statement, if such is the case how does the OLCC in good conscience continue to allow what they know is going on in every bar, tavern and restaurant in the state when it comes to allowing patrons to self pour their own wine or beer? Isn’t this a clear double standard? Doesn’t it fly in the face of the state constitution when said document advises specifically that “Legislation relating to this matter [sic sale of liquor] shall operate uniformly throughout the state and all individuals shall be treated equally; and all provisions should be liberally construed for the accomplishment of these purposes. (Sec.39 (2) of the Constitution of the State of Oregon).
    5. “Most people can agree that reducing the carnage and grief of injuries and death on our roadways because of over-service of alcohol or service to minors is a good thing.”- Most people educated beyond what I’d guess to be about a third grade level can also agree that there is a difference between serving a maximum of ten ounces over a two hour period and letting people pour bottle after bottle for themselves with no such limits. Clearly, basic math skills are all that are required to grasp this concept. The “carnage and grief” terminology you employ is no more than a cheap and thinly veiled scare tactic. I find myself insulted and embarrassed for the citizenry of the State of Oregon by the repeated preposterous/sophomoric exaggerations levied by OLCC representatives who are supposed to be true public servants. By the way, our average pour per patron is 4.3 ounces; the Enomatic software provides ample sophistication for us to confirm that unequivocally!
    6. “The OLCC is charged with enforcing the liquor laws of the state, and it's a state law passed by the legislature that says a person has to serve the alcohol, and that person has to pass an Alcohol Server Education class and have a service permit.”- If this be true, then once again how exactly does the OLCC permit individual patrons at restaurants or bars to pour their own wine or beer at a table for themselves? How about defining what makes that legal and our proposed action illegal. If you have nothing then I submit that it remains an obvious double standard. To this point, when the OLCC has been confronted with this accusation you and your colleagues simply reply with a blank stare and open mouth. Written evidence exists proving the OLCC absolutely knows self pour activity abounds statewide. Still, we are given no explanation or justification for why the AgriVino model is singularly disallowed while comparatively more egregious situations are deemed commonly acceptable. Thus, we believe that the OLCC is cognitively guilty of open discrimination and fundamental unconstitutional behavior.

    John Stuart, Owner AgriVino Wine Center, Carlton, OR

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  7. Personally, I think the OLCC is a sham. Its nothing more than state legislation and propaganda to make more money off of the consumer.

    You can go to any other state surrounding Oregon and not have to put up with half of the garbage, and the alcohol on any level is cheaper.

    The OLCC comes up with more and more stupid laws, that no one agrees with, just to keep themselves in the business.

    We should band together and ban those who try and stifle our rights. Why pay more taxes and more of our hard earned money to a short sighted incongruent group of misfits? I know, lets elect G.W. as lead of there organization... Maybe then we might see some improvement.

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  8. I'm not what you would call "pro-OLCC." But I think the OLCC deserves a lot of credit for opening this forum to free (and even anonymous) comments. I'm sure there is some moderating going on in the background, but but it seems to be extremely light. I enjoy having the opportunity to hear both sides and judge for myself.

    Hats off to OLCC for allowing a free and open forum. So many these days are not.

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  9. The OLCC walked itself into a corner by not exercising leadership and vision. Mr. Stuart's business strategy for AgriVino handed OLCC a beautiful trump card to play as a public safety campaign. Quoting existing policy is not the way to advance public interest or the goals of Oregon's impressive wine industry. OLCC, instead of circling its wagons, should have exercised leadership by bringing the matter before the Attorney General with Mr. Stuart at its side long before the doors of AgriVino were opened - and then closed. The AG almost certainly would have carefully considered the matter and given the OLCC direction to develop some sort of waiver, and Mr. Stuart the chance to refine his business plan, assuming that would ever have been necessary. This has not been Oregon's finest moment and it seems any public sentiment in favor of this OLCC "self pour" ruling has been expended. I'm wondering how many bar owners, winery owners, bistor owners are sweating bullets knowing every single patron performs a self pour.

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  10. No, self-pour is a misnomer. The law (471.360(b)) stipulates that "ye shall not mix, sell, or serve" without being licensed.

    And actually, the OLCC does not enforce all self-pour situation. Order a pitcher of beer at your favorite bar. Just ask if the waitress feels compelled to pour each and every glass for you. Not!

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  11. Oregon state provides an excellent way of regulating alcohol consumption, and controlling intoxicated people within their area. The state government is doing a good job in maintaining a safe environment for their people, as well as the tourist who come to enjoy in the bars.

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  14. I think the main reason why states require certification among alcohol servers is to make sure that the alcohol beverages served to consumers are in the best condition and quality. If something bad happened, it’s not only the establishment’s reputation will be at stake but also the whole state as well. Reports may spread easily which can affect tourists access to the area.

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