An Effective Decoy

Being that I own a bar and restaurant in Portland, Oregon, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission yields significant influence on many aspects of my business.  All sales of alcohol in this state, retail or wholesale, fall directly under the jurisdiction of the OLCC, which is a state agency.  In short, the state of Oregon is in the liquor business.  It sets prices and policy, enforces compliance, and doles out punishment.

Oregon Liquor Control Commission

Oversees all things liquor in Oregon

Rightly so, the OLCC is concerned with underage drinking.  So concerned, that they have implemented a decoy program.  They hire 19 and 20 year old kids with valid ID’s to enter bars and try to order alcohol.  Agents and police officers hide outside so that if any of these young decoys are actually served, they return service with a violation and fine for both the employee who accepted the ID and the establishment itself.  This is expensive for first time offenders and perhaps decimating for repeat offenders.

If your establishment has a spotless record with regards to serving minors, you are awarded entrance into OLCC’s Responsible Vendor Program.  I am very proud to say that my bar has been a part of this program for the last 4 years.  However, I’m not sure about our status after this last Thursday night.  One of my longest tenured employees,  a lovely and responsible young mother and wife who has been working for me for over 11 years, got pinched by a decoy.

The summer months are extremely busy for us.  Our one bartender serves the entire bar and makes all the drinks for an outdoor patio that can seat 80-100 people.  We were not at capacity on Thursday around 8pm, but we were humming for sure.  K simply said that the ’92 in the D.O.B section of the ID handed to her by the young customer looked like an ’82 and she accepted it.  It was nothing more than an honest mistake at exactly the wrong time.

Within minutes the decoy was gone and replaced by two OLCC agents and two police officers.  K was issued paperwork stating she was being charged with a crime, fined $350, and  was ordered to appear in court in about 4 weeks.  I, as owner, will be fined in the neighborhood of $1,100.  For any small business and for any service industry worker, these are no small amounts.  Factor in the current state of the economy and things feel even worse.

I’m lucky to say that this fine will not put me out of business.  I intend to appear in court with K for support and will help her with the fine in any way I can.  The younger man who was me 13 years ago would be arguing and crying foul all day long.  The current me knows to pick his battles better than that and only focus on avoiding the same mistake again in the future.

Yet I can’t help but ask:  is this decoy program entrapment?  And is it an attempt by a government agency to increase revenue in a down economy?  Like other government programs or agencies, they can point to good intentions as their cover.  But my conservative nature knows better than to blindly accept all the consequences of those intentions when they are executed by a resource-devouring government behemoth.

Stay tuned.  There will probably be more to follow on this later.


About Carl Incognito

Conservatives in liberal places are often in the shadows. Conservatives seeking jobs in liberal places depend on them.

Posted on August 16, 2011, in economy, portland, rules, small business and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Oregon’s Minor Decoy Program allows local law enforcement agencies and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to use volunteers between the ages of 17 and 20 as decoys to attempt to purchase alcoholic beverages from licensed premises.

    Oregon is not unique – Minor Decoy Programs are used by law enforcement agencies across the United States, from California to Florida. The program is an important tool used to address the serious problems associated with minors’ consumption of alcoholic beverages.

    In your blog, you mentioned that OLCC inspectors and police officers hide outside while the minors enter bars and try to order alcohol. OLCC inspectors are often undercover, and in the location with the minor volunteer when he/she tries to buy alcohol.

    You also mentioned that your employee who served the minor looked at the ID and that the ’92 looked like an ’82. A good thing to note when checking ID is that a minor’s ID in Oregon has a red box around the photo that reads “UNDER 21 UNTIL….) Minor volunteers use their actual ID that shows they are a minor. We offer a free ID checking class that provides tips on how to check ID as well as how to identify fake ID. You are welcome to contact our office at 503-872-5000 if you are interested.

    We’re glad that you are participating in the Responsible Vendor Program and wanted to clarify a few misconceptions. Licensed businesses have to apply for the program and are accepted if they meet the criteria. The Responsible Vendor Program is a positive program intended to educate the licensees and their employees in addition to helping responsible licensees if their employee makes a sale to a minor.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to call your local OLCC inspector or our headquarters office. We want to help you be successful.

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