By William Thompson
Our Governor envisions an “Innovation State” that leverages new technologies and attracts investment, yet the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has blocked that vision from becoming a reality for small business owners in the heart of Oregon’s wine country.
John Stuart, founder of the Agri-Vino Wine Center in Carlton, invested in a new wine preservation and dispensing technology, called Enomatic, to launch Oregon’s model agro-farm. Five years of planning, $125,000 dollars later, and three days before opening, the OLCC suddenly revoked their permit. The OLCC argues that customers activating this system to sample wines using a pre-paid card constitutes “self-pour”–illegal in Oregon, even though cards are sold exclusively by licensed employees and strictly limit consumption to less than 10 one-ounce samples within a two-hour period. Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Stern has requested the Governor to intervene by August 1st to allow this new innovation to go forward.
Whatever happens will ultimately affect the 232 Yamhill County wineries located within a thirty-mile radius of the new agro-farm. Agri-Vino planned to provide more opportunities to the county and support agro-tourism by showcasing 56 local wineries instead of the traditional 6 to 8. Enomatic technology can eliminate the unavoidable costs of human wine dispensing errors and oxygen alteration, thus making financially viable a business that is now unfeasible under OLCC regulations.
This nonsensical decision contradicts the OLCC’s stated principle of “supporting economic viability for Oregonians” and makes the agency the object of ridicule across the political spectrum. The decision should be reversed.
William Thompson is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market research center.