A local distillery on the coast is calling for change in the way the OLCC distributes spirits across the state. A change the commission is now considering, after listening to the owners argument.
It takes 45 seconds to walk at a normal pace from the Cannon Beach Distillery to the liquor store around the corner. But, it's not that simple for owner and distiller Mike Selberg to actually deliver his product there.
"To get our product into a local liquor store, we have to drive it to Milwaukie, Oregon and it has to be registered and shipped back out to local liquor stores," said Mike Selberg.
You heard him right.
Selberg himself has to drive some 85 miles to the OLCC headquarters in Milwaukie to drop off any of his own liquor he wants sold. Even if he only wants it to go to the liquor store in Cannon Beach.
It's an odd quirk in a longstanding OLCC policy that requires the state to be the sole distributor of all spirits. Once his liquor goes into the state distribution center, Selberg says he loses all control of where it goes.
"We recognize the vast majority of liquor sales are done in bars and restaurants, so I really would like to have my product sold locally here, to the restaurants within a couple hundred yards of the establishment," said Selberg.
Selberg says he'll give the store in town a heads up when he's dropped off a shipment in Milwaukie, so they can request to have it shipped right on back to the coast. But, that doesn't always happen.
He's not allowed to legally sell directly to any bars in town either.
He can, however, sell directly to customers in his tasting room in limited quantities. He tells FOX 12 he's barely making a profit though, because to do that, he pays the OLCC weekly what he pays every month for rent.
"The OLCC has literally only given us a license to produce these things and yet we're paying them an enormous amount of money, while we're selling the product ourselves," he added.
Selberg says he's called the OLCC, written letters and called on state senators to change the law. The best answer he's gotten, he says, was that he can sell directly to the Cannon Beach Liquor Store only on special occasions.
"I can't make a business model based off of special occasions," said Selberg. "What does that even mean? The system is just not set up for us. I can kick and scream as hard as I can, but the OLCC needs to listen and change some of these things."
Well, it seems all of that kicking and screaming at least caught the ear of OLCC Executive Director Steve Marks.
"The part that has never made sense to anyone when you think about it is if there's a small quantity of liquor you ship it up to us and then we'll ship it back down, it doesn't make sense," said Steve Marks.
Marks admits Selberg has legitimate concerns.
Marks believes part of the problem is that the OLCC is working with outdated software in its distribution center. By September, he hopes to have that fixed and along with it a change in the distribution policy.
One that better supports local distillers.
"There are some things and costs that are different for them and we need to look at them and see what we can do and I believe we can give them legitimate changes to their compensation," said Marks. "If they want to do direct sales to restaurants, we can support that. But, we think we'll need the state legislature to provide the authority."
Changes Selberg says he'll believe when he sees.
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