OLCC minor-decoy 'sting' learning experience for businesses

'So now we card everybody'

Sting operation catches businesses...

BEND, Ore. - (Update: More on sting operation, business reaction)

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission recently used their "minor decoy" program to see if Central Oregon businesses would sell alcohol to minors. And the number that did was way above the statewide passing grade.

The program uses minor volunteers who go into businesses and attempt to buy alcohol with their own ID.

Fourteen licensees in Bend were randomly selected for the sting on July 5, and six of them sold to the minors.

Riverbend Brewery, Deschutes Brewery Tasting Room, Immersion Brewery, Pacific Pizza, 7-Eleven on Galveston and Craft Kitchen all failed the sting operation. 

Some of those restaurants and other businesses said Thursday they are using this as a learning experience and are improving how they card people at their restaurants.

According to the OLCC, statewide, about 80 percent of businesses pass the test and don't sell to minors.

An OLCC representative said sales to minors is one of the most common violations they see, but it is also one of the easiest for businesses to avoid.

Courtney Stevens, the owner of Craft Kitchen, said she is using this as a learning experience and is improving how they card people at their restaurants.

“It’s frustrating, but of course we try to be proactive about it -- and by that, we just meet with the state and we are like, 'Look, this just happened,'” Stevens said. “'We know that we have talked to you guys about carding people, but we need to card everybody, even if they look like they are 90 years old.'”

According to OLCC spokesperson Christie Scott, the businesses that did not pass the test soon will be visited again to make sure they have made adjustments to the way they enforce liquor sales.

The Bend businesses were visited on July 5 and found eight of 14 premises visited didn’t sell to the minor, for a 57 percent compliance rate.

Those who passed included Aspect Boards & Brew; Atlas Hard Cider Co.; Bangers & Brews; Good Life Brewing Co.; Market of Choice; Next Level Burger; Croutons, and Boneyard Beer.

Those who sold to the minor included Craft Kitchen & Brewery; River Bend Brewing Sports Pub; Deschutes Brewery Mountain Room; Pacific Pizza & Brew; Immersion Brewing, and the 7-Eleven on NW Galveston Avenue.

Nine Madras licensees were visited on Aug. 23 — two days after the eclipse — and five of nine refused to sell to the minor, for a 55 percent compliance rate.

The no-sales list included Madras Chevron & Circle K; Wild Winds Station; 987 Mart; Madras Pub & Deli, and Midcity Texaco.

Those who sold to the minor included Busy Bee Market; OK Barber Shop; Ahern’s Stop & Shop, and Safeway, the agency reported.

During the sales checks, a minor volunteer attempts to purchase alcohol from a licensed business to see if staff are checking ID's correctly and refusing to sell alcohol to anyone under 21. 

“If our minor volunteer is sold any alcohol, then he or she comes out and gets one of our inspectors, or sometimes the inspector may be in the business with them or nearby,” Scott said. “Then we would talk to the person who sold and the business owner and explain to them what happened.”

Commission inspectors or other law enforcement officers supervise the minor volunteers.  The volunteers carry their own legal ID that identifies them as under 21 and do not disguise their age or lie to encourage the sale of alcohol.   The Oregon Driver license for a minor carries a red border around the picture with the words "Minor Until" followed by the date of his/her 21st birthday.

“So now we card everybody, regardless of how old they are, and what they look like,” Stevens said. “We also ask for a verbal confirmation as well.”

Under Oregon law, businesses in cities with a population of 20,000 or more have an equal chance of being randomly selected for a minor decoy compliance check.  A business can also be selected for a compliance check if there is a documented complaint of sales to minors. 

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