Scam Alert: Oregon Restaurants and Bars Are Being Targeted!

A new scam is targeting Oregon restaurants and bars!

Oregon restaurants and bars should be aware of a new scam targeting them. The scam preys on those who may have inadvertently let their business registration status or license lapse.  The scammer sends threatening letters to these businesses and demands money in exchange for not filing complaints with the OLCC.  The scammer claims the business's failure to keep government paperwork up-to-date threatens its licensing status with the OLCC.

The scammer’s threats are largely empty. In most instances, updating your business information and corporate status with the Oregon Secretary of State and the OLCC are relatively straight forward. It is highly advisable to contact your attorney, the Oregon Secretary of State or the OLCC before responding to any such requests for money.

A business who receives this type of threatening letter is being advised by the Oregon Secretary of State to contact 1) their local police department to file a criminal complaint, 2) the OLCC at 800-452-6522, and 3) the Oregon Secretary of State Corporation Division at 503-986-2200, for assistance updating and renewing business registrations.

For more information, visit the Oregon Secretary of State at www.sos.state.or.us/corporation/scam_alert/inactive_business_OLCC_scam.htm.

Oregon DOJ is investigating issues raised in Bend's OLCC controversy

Over the last several months, Bend city councilors, Deschutes County commissioners and local bar and restaurant owners have vigorously spoken out against alleged abuses suffered by local licensees at the hands of the OLCC. The OLCC attempted to quiet their concerns through a series of town hall meetings, but the dissatisfaction has persisted. 

Now, the Oregon Department of Justice is investigating complaints raised by these groups about Bend-based OLCC enforcement agents allegedly overstepping their authority. In response to the investigation, the OLCC announced the temporary re-assignment of Regional Manager Jason Evers to Redmond pending the results of the investigation.

We’ll keep you posted as information becomes available.

For more information about the investigation, follow the link: http://www.bendbulletin.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090804/AE02/908040422/1002.

 

Oregon bars and restaurants should be careful promoting their establishment using Facebook and Twitter

Restaurants and bars, and every other type of hospitality business, are increasingly using online social media to promote their business. Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are the usual suspects today, but we can expect new entries going forward. Advertising spending in these channels is reported to have eclipsed the $100 million mark this year and is expected to increase. Yet, the dollars spent tell only part of the story. For most restaurants and bars, promoting their business using social media sites is essentially free. It’s this value proposition that promises to making such promotion ubiquitous over the next few years.

Restaurants and bars that serve alcohol must be aware that state liquor laws still apply in this brave new world of social media. A virtual violation is still a violation and can put your license in jeopardy (as well as your pocketbook)!

In Oregon, “advertising” is defined broadly as “publicizing the trade name of a license together with words or symbols referring to alcoholic beverages or publicizing the brand name of an alcoholic beverage.” The OLCC prohibits advertising that, among other things, (1) promotes happy hours involving the temporary reduction in alcoholic beverage prices, (2) encourage drinking because of its intoxicating effect or encourages drinking to excess, (3) involves instantly redeemable coupons for alcoholic beverages, or (4) that is appealing to minors.

The informal, conversational nature of services such as Twitter make violation of these rules easy, too easy. And, don’t think that the OLCC won’t get wise to the use of social media. They launched their own blog in July 2008. Check it out at http://olccblog.blogspot.com/. And, what's posted on these sites, just like the rest of the internet, is expected to have a long shelf life. Before you send off your next tweet, be careful that you’re not inviting your state alcohol regulatory agency to make a visit.

You should also be careful when referring to the competition, members of the public and possibly your state regulatory agency. Keep it friendly. Think before you tweet or post. Getting sued for defamation, causing emotional distress, or just plain bad PR can follow.