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Friday, July 09, 2010

Kill the OLCC

In today's Oregonian, William Hatcher of A to Z Wineworks argues that it's time to mostly dismember the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. He makes a compelling argument that liquor law enforcement, licensing, and contract liquor stores are all superfluous functions that could be better managed by local government--or done away with altogether.
The one area necessarily remaining the provenance of the agency is statutory regulation of licensee qualifications, sales venues and community protections. That oversight should remain with the OLCC commission, a Senate-confirmed panel of five officials from different congressional districts.
For what it's worth, the OLCC is a vestige of the temperance movement. Some states were very much on-board with Prohibition, and when the 21st Amendment passed, tried to re-consolidate some authority over the sale and general availability of liquor. Like them, Oregon established the OLCC in 1933, convening a special session of the Legislature just nine days after Prohibition's repeal solely for this purpose. States like Oregon became known as "control" states, because they controlled the actual sale of liquor. Both Oregon and Washington are among the 18 remaining control states.

The upshot of all of this is that control agencies are far from critical in the regulation of alcohol, and in fact, only remain in a minority of states. So when Hatcher makes these points, he's effectively arguing for Oregon to modernize our regulatory agency and join the rest of the country.

If all of this fails to convince you that the OLCC is an agency past its expiration date, how about this article from Nick Budnick I missed last month in the Bend Bulletin:
Even as the agency has become a lightning rod for criticism in recent years, records show it has also been dogged by internal allegations of mismanagement, lackadaisical self-regulation and inadequate record-keeping.

Last year, an internal audit that was not released publicly found that OLCC’s licensing of alcoholic beverage retailers — one of the agency’s main functions — had been significantly mismanaged. Its title: “Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s licensing function lacks accountability and effective oversight.”

Budnick details the various problems, so go have a look at the gory details.


  1. The fact that the antiquated OLCC still exists is bad enough. Like living in a 3rd world country (State). It's 2010 and we're still driven by 1933 ideals and regulations??!! The OLCC is an embarrassing dinosaur of the past with their stronghold over fixed inflated liquor prices and "Controlling" distribution. Surprised we don't have DRY counties or some other backward ass concept from America's antiquated past.

    OK... done blathering..... At least there are a few people who realize that Oregon needs to get their head out of the 1920's, maybe we can get the Liquor board into the IKE era!!??

  2. "...maybe we can get the Liquor board into the IKE era!!??"

    All I can imagine is Ike Turner walking into the OLCC office and bestowing a glorious back hand on everyone in the room.

    I all seriousness, it will be a hard-fought battle to take control away from the OLCC. Why? It is a profit center for the state. In the 2008-2009 budget cycle, the OLCC amassed 179.1 million in net revenue. the numbers are available at


  3. ....and where has all that money really gone? ;-}

  4. I had an interesting chat with Nick from Block 15 up here at the pub yesterday about this very thing.

    We are both jumping up and down yelling "Kill, KILL" a la Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant.

  5. This is a tragedy born of an era where gross mismanagment has caused an outdated state organization to outlive it's usefullness to society. Why would they care whether or not I give a beer or two to my neighbor? If I'm not selling it, where's the problem?

    What's next, a tax on water? These are the the kind of folks that should move to California where this would be considered correct and worthwhile. Shame on you OLCC, this is a true abuse of power.

  6. Citizen of Oregon12:39 PM, August 03, 2010

    So you guys would prefer unfettered and universal access to hard alcohol?
    ...because that's been so successful?
    Where? California? might want to check/compare alcohol-related crime statistics and their budget...and oh big a sales tax did you want to start with? 7%? Maybe 10%? Orwhat; you don't like half of the booze money going to roads/schools/etc? Those are dumb things you smart guys don't need, eh? I know! You want all the profits to go to Costco or Walmart or any other place than the State you live in! How swell!
    Well, if you short-sighted folks get your way, we can all buy the cheapest crappiest whiskey we like for $5 in the gas station before we jump back on the road we don't want to pay for and try not to think about the sales tax we didn't used to have.
    There is no doubt that the OLCC (like almost every State entity) needs streamlining and auditing.
    But before you rush to destroy, think hard about whether Oregon really needs to be more like California.
    I don't.

  7. Speaking of ass back ward dinosaurs! This guy must work for the OLCC... Bet he's wearing suspenders too! :-0

  8. Changes definitely need to be made in Oregon's alcohol laws. The OLCC prohibits smaller businesses from competing successfully, and though microbreweries get their fare share of crap, wineries and microdistilleries face a lot of challenges, too.

    The tax revenue is certainly an important issue, but it's not an excuse for the OLCC to act as the burdensome bully it's become. Perhaps somebody should look into getting the proper legislation moving along? Maybe a constitutional amendment or something of the sort?