High bar to remove liquor license

A spokeswoman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission on Monday laid out rigorous standards that must be met in order to deny a liquor license to an establishment.

The city of Dufur and the Wasco County sheriff have both recommended that the Dufur Pastime not have its liquor license renewed, and spokeswoman Christie Scott described the standards that would have to be met in order for that to happen.

The Chronicle reached out to Scott for an article on the Pastime that ran last week, but just heard back from her on Monday.

The Pastime actually has two liquor licenses, one to sell alcohol on-premises, and one to sell it off premise, or for use outside the establishment, Scott said.

Both expire Sept. 30, she said — not in January, as the Chronicle incorrectly reported last week based on a comment from a local attorney representing the Pastime — but the Pastime can continue to serve alcohol while the OLCC investigates, she said.

“Unfortunately, we have a higher threshold to meet to write an administrative ticket than police do to write a criminal ticket. We can’t just say, ‘This person left your business and immediately got into a DUII crash where they had a BAC [blood alcohol concentration] of .2 or some incredibly high BAC,” she said.

“We have to prove that the person who served the intoxicated person knew that they were intoxicated and continued to serve them, and that’s really hard to prove that someone knew someone was intoxicated.”

She added, “So unless we have video that shows that person was obviously intoxicated, or we have witnesses who say, ‘Yeah, they were puking at the bar and they served them anyway,’ or video shows them stumbling out the bar, or unless we were there to witness it, they’re really hard to make.”

Sheriff Lane Magill urged the city to recommend denying the liquor license in August, following a fatal crash in July where two people were killed. Police said they believe the driver had left the Pastime directly before the crash. They allege the driver, who died in the crash, and others had been drinking at the Pastime for several hours prior to the crash.

Magill also described six other drunk driving arrests over the last six years. In each case, the driver “freely admitted” to having been drinking at the Pastime prior to their arrest, he noted.

Scott said she didn’t know whether or not there were other drinking establishments in the area, but she said it “happens pretty frequently” that people who are pulled over lie and say they were at another bar because they don’t want to get their favorite watering hole in trouble.

Learning that the Pastime was the only bar in town, Scott said, “I probably would stick with my answer. Even if they weren’t drinking at Dufur Pastime, they might be at their buddy’s garage and they didn’t want to get their friend in trouble.”

“The police are obligated to ask, where is the last place you had your beverage, but we can’t prove they’re telling the truth, and they’re drunk on top of it. So unless we have surveillance video or multiple eyewitnesses, it’s really hard,” she said.

Magill could not be reached for a reaction to Scott’s comments.

She said even though a percentage of people do lie about where they were drinking, the state still wants to know about it. “What we look for is a pattern of behavior.”

A bar in Medford, for example, had 81 claims of people arrested for drunk driving having left there after drinking.

Even if 25 of those were fraudulent, Scott said, that’s still a lot of people who were there.

That Medford bar eventually lost its liquor license.

State rules require police to report to the OLCC all drunk driving arrests where there was a crash or the blood alcohol level was .20 or higher, she said.

Scott said “safety is the most important aspect” of the licensing program. “We want people to know they can leave safely, or that people can be on the roads and be safe.”

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