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Allowing OLCC Inspectors Access to the Premises: a Recent Rule Change

The OLCC recently amended OAR 845-006-0345 to set a uniform standard for when licensees must allow OLCC inspectors and police officers to enter the premises to conduct a reasonable search to ensure compliance with Oregon’s alcoholic beverage laws. In short, a licensee must allow an OLCC inspector or police officer to enter the premises if they identify themselves and desire to enter the licensed premises. If the premises is or appears to be closed, the law enforcement officer must have a reason to believe an alcoholic beverage law violation is occurring. In addition, after the law enforcement officer is on the licensed premises, the licensee must allow the officer to conduct a reasonable search before asking them to leave the premises.

A violation of these prohibitions is a category II violation. Violations are divided into five categories with a category I violation being the most serious and a category V violation being the least. The proposed penalty for a violation is based on the category of the violation and is more harsh for more serious violations. In addition, the OLCC has adopted an escalating penalty schedule in which the suggested sanction for each successive violation in the same category within a two year period is increasingly harsh. For example, the proposed penalty for a first category II violation is a 30 days suspension. The proposed penalty for a second category II violation within a two year period is cancellation. Although the penalties proposed by the penalty schedule are suggestions, the penalties imposed by the OLCC often closely track those set out in the penalty schedule.

What’s the take away here? Licensees are responsible for the acts and omissions of their employees and agents while acting on behalf of the licensee. At a minimum, licensees should discuss these prohibitions with their staff to make sure that they understand when they need to allow law enforcement officers into the licensed premises. The proposed penalty for a first violation of these prohibitions is a 30 day license suspension and could have a serious impact on the continued success and operations of a business. The best practice is to address this issue in a house alcohol service policy that is reviewed and signed by all employees.

Disclaimer. This is for information purposes only and is not intended to and does not constitute legal advise. Please contact an attorney if you have any questions or concerns.