"ABLE Not Party to Liquor Tax Lawsuit"
The ABLE Commission has received inquiries from mixed beverage establishments and the media requesting feedback on a recent civil lawsuit filed in Canadian County by several Oklahoma citizens: Truel et. al v. Aguirre, District Court of Canadian County, Case No. CJ-2011-115. While we issue licenses to mixed beverage establishments, we do not oversee the assessment, collection or remittance of gross receipt taxes by these licensees.
The ABLE Commission is not a Plaintiff or a Defendant in this lawsuit. Consequently, we are not in a position to advise or respond to inquiries from licensees about the allegations contained in the lawsuit. Mixed beverage establishments may wish to consult with private legal counsel.
John A. Maisch, General Counsel
August 15, 2011
THE ABLE COMMISSION
INTRODUCES SEARCHABLE DATABASE FOR ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO COMPLAINTS
JAG GRANT PROVIDES FUNDING FOR COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS FOR REDUCING ALCOHOL SALES TO INTOXICATED PERSONS
The Oklahoma ABLE Commission recently completed a two-year project that provides the public and law enforcement officials an online database to file and search alcohol and tobacco complaints. The database permits law enforcement officials the ability to enter alcohol and tobacco compliance checks that they have conducted in their own jurisdictions.
“This anonymous submission of alcohol and tobacco complaints allows the ABLE Commission to more efficiently assign the complaints for investigation,” stated Director Keith Burt. “Now the public has the capability to monitor some of the activities of the alcohol and tobacco retailers in their communities directly from our web site at www.able.ok.gov.”
This system, in addition with the collaborative efforts of law enforcement officials in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, is an effort to reduce alcohol and tobacco sales to underage persons and alcohol sales to intoxicated persons. Thanks to a Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) awarded to Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Service (ODMHSAS) and administered through the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council, the ABLE Commission conducted more than 100 over-service checks in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.
Assisted by Oklahoma’s 17 Area Prevention Resource Centers (APRC), ABLE instructed over 250 alcohol retailers in Responsible Beverage Service and Sales. This 4-hour course concentrated on recognizing valid identifications, early recognition of intoxicated persons and the refusal of service. Statistical data of written tests were scored and analyzed by the OU Health Science Center.
For more information, contact:
Jim Hughes, Assistant Director Oklahoma ABLE Commission (405) 522-2996 firstname.lastname@example.org
Keith Burt, Director, Oklahoma ABLE Commission
LEGISLATIVE REVIEW 2011
The 53rd Oklahoma Legislature has adjourned and as usual we encountered many challenges this past Session. State agencies struggling with declining resources were faced with another round of budget cuts. We are not alone, as large and small businesses throughout Oklahoma and the nation attempt to gain some momentum or simply try to survive.
The Legislature and Governor enacted legislation to streamline government services, including the consolidation of state agencies' information technology services. The ABLE Commission looks forward to contributing to these efforts as we move toward a more efficient state government, without reducing the level of service that licensees have come to expect from their state government.
Unfortunately, the ABLE Commission wasn't immune from the budget cuts that affected nearly every state agency. Legislative leaders and the Governor also struck a budget accord resulting in a 7% decrease ($236,000) in our agency's General Revenue Appropriations. 'This is an equivalent of four full time positions. While we are grateful that most of our funding was left intact, we are still fated with the fact that our agency's budget has been cut by over 20% since 2009.
While our budgets continually decrease, our responsibilities continue to increase. In addition to regulating alcoholic beverages, the ABLE Commission is charged with enforcing the Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act and Oklahoma Charity Games Act. We feel privileged to have been entrusted with these additional responsibilities, but with every budget cut, we are reminded of the challenges of enforcing such diverse missions.
In light of these budget cuts, we are seeking alternate funding solutions as well as cost reductions, where feasible. In short, we remain focused on the task at hand, which is securing the public's safety while providing our licensees with the most prompt service that we can provide. We will continue to rely on your feedback as we continue to implement these changes. If you experience any decrease in service levels from our agency as a result of these budget cuts, we want to know as soon as possible, so that we can address the issue.
Finally, I wanted to take a moment to summarize a few other legislative bills involving alcoholic beverages that were passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor this past session:
Senate Bill 658
Senate Bill 658 created a 2I-member task force to study whether the issue of wine and strong beer sales in grocery stores should be submitted to a vote of the people. The joint Legislative Task Force is composed of state senators, state representatives, citizens-at-large, and representatives from various industries. The Task Force is required to submit its report to the Legislature by February I, 2012.
Senate Bill 529
Senate Bill 529 amended Oklahoma's statutes to require mandatory ignition interlock devices for all DUI convictions where the blood alcohol concentration is aggravated (0.15 BAC or higher), effective November 1,2011. In addition, all drivers convicted of aggravated DUI are required to carry a replacement driver's license containing the phrase, "Interlock Required:'
House Bill 1211
House Bill 1211 amended Oklahoma's social host statutes to establish criminal penalties for those convicted of violating the state's social host laws. Effective November 1, 2011, first and second-time convictions that do not involve great bodily harm or death will be guilty of a misdemeanor. The legislation also affirmed municipalities' authority to enforce low-point beer ordinances, provided those ordinances are not more stringent than those set forth by state law.
Senate Bill 324
Senate Bill 324 lowered the lawful blood alcohol concentration for operators of motorized watercraft from 0.10 BAC to 0.08 BAG, effective July 1, 2011.
The ABLE Commission does not make the laws, it simply enforces them. However, the ABLE Commission will continue to fulfill its obligations and articulate our public safety concerns as required by law. We appreciate the opportunity to share our concerns with elected officials, licensees, and members of the general public, and we are always available to hear your feedback on issues affecting the industry.
The Oklahoma ABLE Commission is pleased with the improvement of the state’s compliance rate of tobacco sales to its youth.
According to Jim Hughes, Assistant Director of the ABLE Commission, this year’s overall statewide compliance rate of 91.08% is up from last year’s 82.43%. The greatest area of improvement was seen in northeastern Oklahoma where, last year, nearly a quarter of convenience stores and grocery stores sold tobacco products to undercover youths. Today, less than 10% of that area’s tobacco retailers sold to the youth.
The ABLE Commission conducted more than 2000 compliance checks throughout the state, thanks to a grant received from the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET). The grant is administered through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Service (ODMHSAS) which coordinates the state’s compliance check program. The ABLE Commission has been statutorily responsible for enforcing the “Oklahoma Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act” since 1994 and has worked with ODMHSAS to perform tobacco compliance checks statewide.
Although we are pleased with the increase, we believe there are still far too many stores that will sell tobacco products to our youths,” stated Assistant Director Hughes. To further aid in its efforts to protect Oklahoma’s youths, the ABLE Commission announces the availability of an online query system. This system, made possible through a Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) administered by ODMHSAS, allows the public to search and submit complaints directly to the ABLE Commission. In addition, it offers law enforcement agencies the opportunity to record the compliance checks they have conducted within their jurisdictions. Access to this database is available through ABLE’s web site at www.able.ok.gov.
Hughes recognized TSET’s and ODMHSAS’s efforts to provide resources and coordination of services for increasing the number of compliance checks as important tools in the battle against youth tobacco use.
For more information, contact:
Jim Hughes, Assistant Director Oklahoma
ABLE Commission (405) 522-2996
A NEW YEAR BRINGS NEW CHALLENGES
Every year brings new challenges, whether you are a state agency or a business owner. 2011 is no exception. The nation’s economic slump continues to impact everyone.
The ABLE Commission’s budget has been cut $548,000 in the past year. Keep in mind that our agency was operating at 2000 budget levels even before these most recent cuts took place. Despite these budget cuts, however, the ABLE Commission has continued to fulfill its responsibilities as a result of several factors.
First, we were able to secure several federal grants created to assist state agencies in performing responsible server training and tobacco compliance checks. These federal grants,while not permanent, have helped us avoid major reductions in employees or services.
Second, the Legislature approved an industry-supported cost-recovery surcharge. Since most ABLE license fees have not increased in over 25 years, this surcharge was necessary to assist us in covering the increasing costs of our most basic licensing and enforcement services. While the cost-recovery surcharge is considered modest by most standards, it has provided desperately needed assistance to our agency.
Third, we have pursued internal, cost-cutting measures,such as closing our Lawton field office and not refilling our Deputy Director or Chief Agent positions, in order to survive the budget cuts incurred by our agency. Like your business, our agency continues to do more with less. But it’s a constant challenge.
So while we look ahead to 2011, I wanted to take a moment to recognize five employees who retired from the agency this past year, especially Deputy Director Marta Patton. When a workforce loses the institutional knowledge of such a fine group, you are truly fortunate when those that depart took the time and effort to pass on their knowledge to benefit the agency.
Despite these budget cuts, the ABLE Commission has continued to focus on two primary mandates, public safety and an orderly marketplace.
PUBLIC & CONSUMER SAFETY
In northwest Oklahoma City, an Edmond tanning salon owner brought a 17-year-old to a popular restaurant for a few drinks. Instead of refusing service, the restaurant served the high school student a double-bourbon because, according to the bartender,the tanning salon owner was a good customer. The ABLE Commission imposed a 10-day license suspension on the restaurant.
In Bixby, a patron was served 11 beers and 4 tequila shots at a sports bar within a three-hour period. No effort was made by the bar or waitress to monitor the alcoholic beverages being consumed by the patron. Within five minutes after leaving the bar, that patron caused a four-vehicle accident. The ABLE Commission imposed a 10-day license suspension on the bar.
In south Oklahoma City, a gentlemen’s club refilled eight bottles of Crown Royal unbeknownst to the state, the manufacturer, or its customers. Lab results confirmed that a substance other than Crown Royal had been added to the bottles. The ABLE Commission fined the gentlemen’s club $20,000 for unlawfully refilling bottles.
The ABLE Commission placed a moratorium on Four Loko and all alcohol energy drinks after its Oklahoma broker voluntarily terminated its representation of the product. The 23.5 ounce product contained the alcohol-equivalent of six low-point beers and the caffeine-equivalent of two large Starbuck’s coffees. Two weeks later, the Food & Drug Administrative declared the alcohol energy drink to be an adulterated product.
The ABLE Commission forced an Oklahoma City package store owner to relinquish his hidden ownership in three additional package stores and two wholesale companies. In addition to over $200,000 of inventory being constructively seized, the wholesale licenses were surrendered or revoked, one package store license was revoked, and the remaining three package stores are prohibited from sharing common ownership, names, or logos.
The sluggish economy has hurt all Americans, and although resilient,Oklahoma businesses and state government have suffered as well. Like your business, the ABLE Commission has tightened its fiscal belt, leaving vacancies unfilled and continuing to look for ways to be more effective with fewer resources. It’s a challenge that we all face together as we enter 2011.
A.Keith Burt, Director
Oklahoma ABLE Commission
From The Director’s Desk
2010 saw the retirement of 5 long time ABLE Commission employees.
Tim Wilson December 1, 1979 to January 1, 2010
Roger Jennings August 8, 1985 to February 1, 2010
Kevin Sharp November 4, 1996 to August 1, 2010
Marta Patton July 23, 1974 to August 1, 2010
Stan Dowling September 22, 1986 to October 1, 2010
I recently visited with Tim and he was planning a trip to Thailand to do some scuba diving.
Roger Jennings stayed retired four whole days before taking a position with the Chickasaw Nation in the office of the Gaming Commissioner.
I saw Kevin Sharp around Christmas time in McAlester at the McAlester Office Christmas party. He looked great and said he still enjoyed fishing and hunting and was getting to do a lot more of each in his retirement.
Marta is getting to garden a lot more than she used to and we try very hard not to call her every time we have a question and we know she knows the answer. It reminds me of when Charlie Weaver retired in 1996 after 37 years with the ABC Board/ABLE Commission. Marta would remind me, Charlie’s put in his time, let him retire in peace. Well Marta, we are trying to let you retire in peace, but you were the closest thing we had to an encyclopedia on liquor laws since Charlie Weaver’s retirement.
Stan Dowling, in addition to having a career with the ABLE Commission, also served our country in the Naval Reserve.
To all the ABLE Commission employees we lost through retirement in 2010, I wish you a Happy New Year and a long and enjoyable retirement. Thanks for all your contributions to the agency and the citizens of Oklahoma.
For Immediate Release – November 17, 2010
This afternoon, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warning letters to four manufacturers of alcohol energy drinks, notifying the manufacturers that their products were not deemed generally recognized as safe by the federal agency.
The four companies named by the FDA include Charge Beverages Corporation, New Century Brewing Company, Phusion Projects, and United Brands Company. Only one manufacturer, Phusion Projects, is registered to sell its alcohol energy drink, Four Loko, in the State of Oklahoma.
The FDA’s warning letter stated that specific alcohol energy drinks manufactured by these four companies were considered adulterated products under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and gave these manufacturers fifteen (15) days to specify what steps each manufacturer were taking to correct the violations.
The FDA’s press release can be accessed at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodIngredientsPackaging/ucm190366.htm
On November 3, 2010, the Oklahoma ABLE Commission placed a moratorium on the approval of alcohol energy drinks, including Four Loko, until a local scientific panel could be assembled to review the products’ safety.
At that time, the ABLE Commission specifically stated that the temporary moratorium would not affect licensed wholesalers' or retailers' ability to sell Four Loko currently in the state. The moratorium would only restrict the ability of Phusion Projects, Four Loko’s manufacturer, to bring its alcohol energy drinks into Oklahoma after December 3, 2010.
The ABLE Commission is in the process of deciding what additional action, if any, may need to be taken by the state agency in light of the FDA's announcement today.
While the state agency does not foresee taking any immediate action to require wholesalers or retailers to remove Four Loko from their shelves, the ABLE Commission encourages all consumers and ABLE licensees to review and carefully consider the warnings published by the FDA this afternoon.
John A. Maisch, General Counsel
Oklahoma ABLE Commission
TO: ABLE Licensees
FROM: ABLE Commission
DATE: November 8, 2010
RE: Alcohol Energy Drinks including Four Loko
The Oklahoma ABLE Commission was notified on November 2, 2010, that Four Loko would no longer be represented in the State of Oklahoma effective December 3, 2010. As such, Four Loko’s manufacturer, Phusion Projects, was notified that it would no longer be permitted to deliver shipments of Four Loko into Oklahoma for resale after that date.
In light of the growing scientific evidence against alcohol energy drinks, and the October 8th incident involving Four Loko in Roslyn, Washington, the ABLE Commission has decided to empanel a group of scientific experts to study the threats posed by pre-mixed, alcohol energy drinks combining ingredients such as caffeine, guarana, and taurine. The panel will present its findings and recommendations to the ABLE Commission at a date to be determined. While the ABLE Commission awaits the findings and recommendations of this panel, a moratorium has been placed on the approval of any pre-mixed, alcohol energy drinks that combine ingredients such as caffeine, guarana, and taurine, pending a determination as to the safety of these products.
This moratorium does not affect Four Loko products already in the state or lawfully delivered to wholesalers prior to December 3rd. After December 3rd, wholesalers will only be allowed to sell Four Loko to package store and mixed beverage licensees until their inventories are depleted. Similarly, package store and mixed beverage licensees may purchase Four Loko from wholesalers, and sell Four Loko to the public, until their inventories are depleted.
The ABLE Commission would like to express its appreciation to all licensees for their cooperation in this matter. All questions pertaining to the ABLE Commission’s moratorium should be emailed to John A. Maisch, General Counsel, at: email@example.com.
From The Director’s Desk
The liquor industry has lost an icon here in Oklahoma, Hannibal “Pancho” Shadid, owner of Pancho’s Liquor Town, passed away October 15, 2010. In 1959, Pancho opened one of the first retail liquor stores in Oklahoma as Oklahomans repealed prohibition. On numerous occasions he told me he would never retire, true to his word, he never did. Pancho came in regularly to keep an eye on the business he founded and with the loving support of his family turned it into the successful enterprise it is today.
I will remember many things about Pancho, among them his love for his family, also being an animal lover myself, I always appreciated Pancho’s feelings about pets and their treatment. I did not think I could find someone who liked dogs as much as I do. I was wrong. He was a savvy competitor, but he was also kind and generous. I first met Pancho at an ABC Board meeting, where he had brought his well behaved favorite Chihuahua Pepe´. After the board meeting as he was shaking hands and being introduced, I heard him say “who’s the new guy” to which my boss said “just some accountant from licensing”. “Does he have a name” Pancho said. “Yeah, Keith, Keith Burt” replied my boss. Pancho strides over, shakes my hand for the first in what would become hundreds of handshakes and tells me it sounds like I know what I’m talking about during a budget presentation. A compliment, a handshake and an invitation to his store for coffee and conversation the next time I was in the neighborhood.
In our many encounters over the years, he always greeted me with a warm smile and firm handshake, even near the end, that never changed. We talked of the industry, of course, but he always took time to ask how my family and I were doing.
In over 30 years, Pancho never treated me any differently than when he first met me. That is not to say he did not respect the office of the Director, he did, but he saw people as people, not just a number or an office. Early on, out of respect, I tried to call him Mr. Shadid. I was told I wasn’t talking to his father, “I’m Pancho, just plain Pancho”.
Pancho, yes. Plain, never.
Gone, sadly yes. Forgotten, NEVER.
My heartfelt condolences to the Shadid family.
Just plain “Keith”
MISSION: Enjoy Oklahoma Safely!
From The Director’s Desk
By A. Keith Burt, Director
Oklahoma ABLE Commission
A Hospitable Mission
Occasionally people get the wrong impression of our mission here at the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission. Many believe we are here to put a cork in their attempts to have fun. Our mission states we enforce and administer the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, Oklahoma Charity Games Act, and Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act. Our desire is to help regulate an orderly market place and ensure a fair competitive situation for all. We would like nothing better than for all Oklahomans and our guests to enjoy Oklahoma’s hospitality.
A Broad Focus
In 1959 when the Oklahoma Alcohol Beverage Control Board was created we had only one focus and that was alcohol regulation. Through the years Oklahoma’s Constitution was amended by a vote of the people in 1984, and liquor-by-the-drink on a county option was approved and the size of our agency more than doubled and received a name change to the current day ABLE Commission. From the mid eighties with almost 80 employees, through the 90’s, which saw the Legislature add Charity Games enforcement and Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco, to the present day, which finds us with all the three missions and only 41 full time employees to get the job done, the job remains a challenge.
An Increasingly Challenging Environment
Today’s world is undoubtedly more complex than in 1959 when our agency was born (no Internet sales to be concerned with then). Yet what we want for citizens remains almost identical. There is still the consistent desire to protect Oklahomans from harm, while allowing the freedom to enjoy the hospitality the Midwest is known for.
We are privileged to work with responsible representatives of the liquor industry. People in this industry know their product is unique and that selling this product bears a responsibility unlike most others. Regulation is required or consequences will be had. Just look at the published works, “The Dangers of Alcohol Deregulation: The United Kingdom Experience”. This is surely an eye opener for those who want to sell alcohol as if it were soda pop.
There is not enough time to delve into all the subjects as each have enough weight to merit their own article, such as the defending of the three tier system and the implications of vertical integration on that system. We deal with subjects such as direct shipping, the Costco case, Granholm, second generation Granholm, and a piece of legislation called the Comphrehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act (CARE).
We deal with complex issues that invade simple supply and demand curves and interject public safety concerns that can and often do impact profit margins. People in our industry are just as concerned with their bottom line as any other walk of life. However, they realize that over indulgence can have deadly consequences. For the most part we deal with responsible retailers, restaurateurs and club owners. These people know we are out there checking their operations and most welcome it. They run clean operations and expect our help in maintaining an orderly safe market place. Do we write tickets? Do we revoke licenses? Do we make arrests? The answer is yes, yes, and yes. This, however, is not our goal - correcting behavior is. Many times a penalty will involve something other than a monetary or fiscal sanction such as greater security or perimeter control.
Increasing unit sales is generally a profit generator. However a cheaper more accessible product is not always the answer. If you have ever had the chance to catch Pam Erikson’s presentation on the “The High Price of Cheap Alcohol”, you will be thoroughly enlightened. There are many examples of balancing profits with public safety. We try to be the guys who keep a mindful eye out.
In light of challenging times for both the private and public sectors we see innovation all around us as noon and dinner establishments sometimes double as nightclubs in the same venues. Yet, this clever use of limited space, often mean potential license premise control problems.
With the trend of downsizing regulatory agencies and/or a shift from state to local control, it is no accident that the correlation of shrinking budgets goes hand in hand with a struggling economy. Twenty five years ago with an agency twice our size and only one mission, not three, we did a good job. Today the men and women of the ABLE Commission do three times the work with half the people and they’re doing a great job! With unemployment at record levels (and four years without a pay raise) many of them stop by just to say thanks for having a job and not being furloughed as some of our sister agencies have done with their employees.
I am proud of the work they do and am proud to be one of them.
EFFECTIVE May 28, 2010
In accordance with the passage of House Bill 3383, a surcharge shall be paid in addition to the applicable licensing fee and administrative fee, if required. The surcharge fees are listed below and shall be assessed annually for the following licenses at the time of submitting new and renewal applications. The license fee, surcharge administrative fee payments can be made in one payment. Failure to submit the license application, license fee, administrative fee and surcharge will cause an application to be delayed or denied. A copy of the bill is available to view. Please direct questions to the Licensing Division 405-521- 3484
HOUSE BILL 3383
Class B Wholesaler without an active low-point beer license
Class B Wholesaler with an active low-point beer license
Package Store for cities and towns over 5,000 population
Package Store for cities and towns from 2,501to 5,000 population
Package Store for cities and towns from 200 to 2,500 population
Mixed Beverage/Caterer Combination
Beer and Wine
UNDERAGE DRINKING DEBATE PROS AND CONS