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Penalties for underage alcohol sales could double in Oregon

Chris Lehman

The penalty for businesses that sell alcohol to underage people in Oregon could double. That’s under a proposal being considered by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

The commission voted at its meeting this month to kick off a rule-making process that could lead to the first increase in penalties for underage alcohol sales since 2000. The current punishment for a first offense is either a $1,650 fine or a 10-day license suspension, although the agency has the discretion to reduce the penalty in certain circumstances.

Kelly Routt, the director of OLCC's Administrative Process and Policy Division, told commissioners higher penalties could make license-holders extra vigilant about selling alcohol to minors. “A license is a privilege," she said. "And with that privilege comes responsibility and the knowledge on the front end that if a violation does occur, no matter what the size of your bank account, you will be held accountable for that.”

In crafting the OLCC's budget for the current biennium, Oregon lawmakers set a 90 percent compliance rate target for licensees to refuse to sell to underage decoys. Previously, the target was 82 percent. According to a legislative analysis, the current compliance rate is about 81 percent.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”