OLCC warns business of alcohol violation

October 5, 2005

The Gift House in downtown Hood River has been warned against allowing patrons to leave the premises with wine samples during First Friday.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) gave the business an official warning about the practice last week. The infraction reportedly occurred on Sept. 2 when an OLCC inspector observed people walking out of the store with a small cup of alcohol.

Gift House owner Serina Erstamer said she did not know the practice of Amos Enbury, a hired server with the Henry Wine Group of Portland, violated the law. In fact, she was giving customers only a “thimble” full of wine to ensure the serving qualified as a sample. Enbury was also written up for imbibing alcohol while on duty.

“I’m just going to make sure that no one goes out the door with our tasting, as small as they are,” said Erstamer. “We will now make sure the shop is signed so that people know it is illegal to go outside with a beverage of any size.”

Ken Palke, OLCC spokesperson, said the Gift House could face a fine if either offense is repeated. He said businesses without a liquor license may give away samples, but are still subject to the law that forbids open containers to leave the premises.

“This is a public health and safety issue whether the alcohol is being sold or given away. If First Friday is being promoted as a family event it just doesn’t create a good atmosphere for the adults not to be in control of the situation,” he said.

In a related case, Trillium Café on Oak Street has until next Monday to appeal its $1,485 OLCC fine or nine-day license suspension. At the August First Friday, an OLCC inspector reportedly observed patrons leaving the business with alcohol they had purchased inside. Palke said Trillium owners David and Michelle Hanel were warned the previous month about the problem.

Bob Francis, city manager, termed the August sanction against Trillium as a First Friday “growing pain.” He said the event began as a small group of people browsing through shops along the first six blocks of the downtown business corridor. But, over time, it has evolved into an event with 2,000 to 4,000 people during the peak tourist months. Subsequently, Francis said the City Council has expressed concerns about the “free flow” of spirits and some businesses have decided to quit offering wine samples altogether.

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