Editorial: Get the OLCC out of liquor business


Published Sep 25, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission strives to get itself noticed for doing good things. One of its latest deeds was to allow more state liquor stores to sell beer and wine.

“Oregonians pride ourselves on our pioneering spirit,” said OLCC Chair Rob Patridge. “This is the first step of many in improving the shopping experience for our customers.”

But as nice as the OLCC’s action will be for some customers, it’s about as pioneering as getting out of bed in the morning. It’s only a breakthrough into the depths of ridiculousness. The agency is such a Prohibition artifact that allowing a business that sells hard liquor to sell beer and wine thrills like a revelation.

As befits a state regulatory agency, the OLCC experimented first in this realm of less regulation. It allowed a few liquor stores to sell beer and wine. Lo and behold, the owners running the state stores found a way to make it work. So the OLCC board dared to take the next step and allow other liquor stores to actually sell beer and wine.

Of course, some grocery stores and convenience stores are not going to be happy. The OLCC’s action may take business away from them, and the OLCC already limits them to selling only beer and wine. The OLCC can unfurl in response: Supermarkets can open a separate liquor store within a supermarket with special permission from the OLCC.

That’s as satisfying as hot beer.

There’s really only one way the OLCC can live up to what Patridge called Oregon’s pioneering spirit. Pioneer ways for the OLCC to get the state out of the liquor business. Bring its regulatory pollution to an end.

There’s a role for the state in keeping drunks off the road, keeping alcohol out of the hands of minors and encouraging responsible use. But the OLCC doesn’t need to be in the liquor business.