The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is considering relaxing a rule involving minors being allowed in establishments where alcohol is served. Oregon Partnership’s position? Some red flags that cannot be ignored.
This proposed rule revises the rule section that specifies when and under what conditions a minor may be present in a licensed facility. It retains the general standard of prohibiting minors when there is a “drinking environment.” Generally, this means that drinking is the primary activity versus eating or entertainment or some other activity. The rule is substantially reorganized and rewritten. However, the important change is that it would allow minors to be in more licensed establishments where alcohol is served.
The major area of change is for venues that typically have live entertainment attractive to youth. To permit minors in these places, a detailed control plan is required. The specifies what must be in a control plan and how it must demonstrate that minors will not obtain alcohol or be exposed to a “drinking environment.” The rule includes a new provision giving the OLCC the ability to cite the licensee if they fail to follow their own control plan. This is an important change which will make the control plan more than just a paper document.
Oregon Partnership’s Position:
1. Oregon Partnership advises a very cautious approach with strict enforcement. In drafting the rule, OLCC staff has made a substantial effort to exercise care and caution in allowing more opportunities for youth to enjoy live entertainment and other activities. Oregon Partnership believes OLCC should continue this cautious approach in granting this privilege and should strictly enforce the control plans.
2. Oregon Partnership will not support this rule if it generally allows young children in places where alcohol is served. We do not see anything in the rule which addresses this issue. There is a trend of young tweens and teens—particularly girls (age 12, 13, 14)—partying with older males in their 20s. This rule should not facilitate this dangerous trend. Oregon Partnership sees a big difference in allowing 18, 19 and 20 year old youth in entertainment venues versus younger children. For the most part, we believe these provisions should apply to 18, 19 and 20 year olds. We understand from OLCC staff that a Control Plan can include restrictions by age; however, we do not see this in the rule and would need some assurance about this issue.
3. Oregon Partnership is concerned about the lack of OLCC enforcement resources. While OLCC received funding for additional staff from the last Legislative Session, that still doesn’t meet current needs. We note that OLCC added 463 licenses in the most recent fiscal year. We would prefer to see new OLCC resources devoted to underage sales compliance checks, a proven method of reducing illegal sales. This rule will divert enforcement resources from other things
4. Oregon Partnership believes the OLCC relies too heavily on the criterion of “drinking environment” and should give more consideration to the increase in access. While no one wants minors in a drinking environment, the research is pretty clear that access should be a major consideration. Research now shows a correlation between the number of alcohol outlets and community problems including underage drinking. This makes sense as more outlets require more enforcement, training of clerks/servers, etc. With the number of licenses growing every year, some recognition of this problem should appear in the rule. It also should give weight to the need for a cautious approach in adding opportunities for youth to be in alcohol serving venues.