The OLCC: Still Drunk With Power

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission seems to have sobered up a little, at least regarding regulation of some events in Central Oregon.

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The Oregon Liquor Control Commission seems to have sobered up a little, at least regarding regulation of some events in Central Oregon.


The Bulletin reported this morning that, following angry clashes with the management of the Les Schwab Amphitheater and local bars and restaurants, the OLCC has decided to allow concertgoers at The Schwab to carry their beer or wine around instead of having to be confined to a pen, as previously. For two concerts, anyway.

About a week ago, this year's Bend Brewfest was cancelled because of what event organizers said were excessive restrictions by the OLCC, and Schwab management says at least three performers have cancelled dates this summer for the same reason.

The OLCC has long appeared to The Eye to be an agency that hunts for - or invents - "problems" so it can apply draconian "solutions." It's regulation for regulation's sake. The rules governing "happy hours" are an egregious example: Bars can HAVE happy hours, but they can't CALL them "happy hours" or "attitude adjustment hours" or mention reduced prices for drinks during "happy hours" in their advertising. (The Bulletin has a good editorial on this subject today - sorry, we can't link to it because of the paper's firewall.)

The aim of all this prissiness, supposedly, is to prevent abuse of alcohol in various ways - drunkenness, drinking by minors, drunk driving. But there's little or no evidence that the OLCC's hard-ass approach accomplishes any of that.

For example, according to estimates compiled by the federal Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, 39.52% of people 18 to 25 indulged in binge drinking within a given month in Oregon in 2005-2006. But in California - where alcohol regulation is much looser and you can buy booze almost anywhere - the rate was 37.75%. And in Washington, whose regulations fall somewhere between California's and Oregon's, the figure was 41.24%.

The numbers on alcohol use by minors (age 12 to 17) were similar: An estimated 18.43% of them used alcohol in a given month in Oregon, while the figure in California was 14.7% and in Washington it was 17.22%, according to SAMHSA.

So what's the OLCC accomplishing, besides creating work for itself, hassling bar and restaurant owners and their patrons and making liquor more expensive for Oregonians?

We think it's time for the legislature to take a hard look at the OLCC and either abolish it or order a top-to-bottom personnel shakeout and a complete review of its rules to weed out the nonsensical ones. This agency has gotten away with being drunk on power for too long.

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