OLCC to a Beaverton bar over a two-year span.
According to Metro’s 2012 State of Safety report, driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII) is the single largest contributing factor to fatal traffic collisions in the region. People who have too much to drink (or get impaired by drugs) and try to operate a car are responsible for 57% of all road fatalities region-wide.
While the drunk driving problem is relatively well-known among safety advocates and even the general public, what’s not often talked about are the restaurants and bars that serve the alcohol in the first place. Oregon law (ORS 471.412) states that a liquor license holder, “may not allow a person to consume or to continue to consume alcoholic beverages on the licensed premises after observing that the person is visibly intoxicated.”
Despite that law, police officers in the Portland region arrest hundreds of people each year who name the specific bar they came from prior to being pulled over. The names of those bars are then sent to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), which keeps a running tally of the totals and ranks the worst offenders.
Now a local lawyer, Scott Kocher of Forum Law Group, is bringing attention to the establishments in the OLCC database. Kocher provided us with several years of the OLCC’s “Top Ten” lists that ranks each establishment in their license database (over 5,300 bars and restaurants in the Portland metro region) by how many DUI arrests they are linked to each year.
“When a victim finds out they were hit by a drunk driver who came out of a bar that has been sending dozens of drivers out onto the road with too much to drink, their reaction is outrage.”
— Scott Kocher, lawyer
The data raises new questions about our drunk driving culture, the responsibility of bar owners, the role of enforcement agencies, the role of neighborhood and traffic safety advocates, the consequences of auto-centric land-use development, and so on.
According to Kocher, who obtained the lists while representing the family of a DUI victim, few people know this data exists. Hoping to raise the red flag about the issue, Kocher made a presentation at the February meeting of the City of Portland’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee, where he’s an alternate member.
“From an advocacy standpoint,” Kocher said, “we should be taking a really good look at this information.” Kocher thinks neighborhood groups would speak out loudly against bars that are repeatedly on the list, and perhaps even contact the OLCC to oppose liquor licenses when they come up for renewal.
To learn more, we contacted the OLCC to verify the data and learn more about how the list is compiled and how the agency deals with bars and restaurants that might be repeatedly over-serving intoxicated customers.
The data represents four, one-year periods from December 2009 through July 2013 (read and download the lists here). Interestingly, there are three establishments that appear on the list every year:
- Malone’s Ale House (1175 NW 185th Ave in Beaverton) was linked to 102 DUI arrests during this period and was in the top two each of the four years.
- The Peppermill Restaurant & Lounge (17455 SW Farmington Rd in Aloha) was linked to 75 DUI arrests during this period.
- West Union Sports Pub & Family Restaurant (5340 NW 185th Ave in Beaverton) was linked to 68 DUI arrests during this period.
These three establishments are less than six miles away from each other and they’re all along the 185th Avenue corridor in Washington County, an area whose land-use and development pattern is very auto-centric. Another striking geographic consideration is that while having only 19% of the total number of locations in Region 1 tracked by the OLCC, Washington County establishments claim 80% of the top ten rankings.
are all along the 185th Avenue corridor in Beaverton.
There are only two establishments in Portland (and not in Washington County) that appear in the four years of data we looked at: the Dirty Bar and Grill at 35 NW 3rd Ave (they appeared for two years, with an average of 13.5 incidents each year); and CC Slaughters at 219 NW Davis (they had 12 incidents in the period between July 2012 and July 2013).
Keep in mind that there are many caveats with this data. The incidents for each establishment originate from a police officer who asks a DUI suspect where they got their alcohol. People might say the wrong bar or they might have downed additional drinks after leaving the bar. Some individual officers or enforcement agencies might also be more diligent in getting this information out of the DUI suspect. Different counties also fund drunk driving enforcement at different levels.
OLCC Public Affairs Specialist Christie Scott says they use the DUII list “as an indicator of potential problems around the state.” Scott points out that the list doesn’t reflect every DUII arrest and that local law enforcement is only required to report the information to the OLCC if the Blood Alcohol Content of the suspect is .20 or higher or if there was damage (such as a crash) that’s tied to a business that holds a liquor license.
Scott also warned about the validity of the data. “The officers write down where the person arrested says he or she last drank alcohol. However, without absolute proof, it’s possible that the person is just saying he drank at xyz tavern because he doesn’t want to get his local watering hole into trouble. Or, he may have downed a sixer on the way home from the bar.”
“It’s possible that the person is just saying he drank at xyz tavern because he doesn’t want to get his local watering hole into trouble. Or, he may have downed a sixer on the way home from the bar.”
— Christie Scott, OLCC public affairs
Because the data is far from perfect, Scott says they use it only to spot general trends — such as a large number of DUII arrests where people all claim to have come from the same place. “That’s an indicator that OLCC inspectors should look closer for over service problems.”
In the case of Malone’s Ale House, we requested further documentation from the OLCC to understand their follow-up procedures. According to what they provided, the OLCC wrote seven warning letters to the bar’s owner and conducted 10 separate visits between December 2011 and January 2014. Of those 10 visits, seven of them were conducted by undercover OLCC agents.
During one 12 day period in December 2013, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office made five DUII arrests where the driver was observed coming from Malone’s Ale House.
Despite those warnings and the high number of DUI incidents linked to Malone’s, the OLCC has not imposed any sanctions for serving too much alcohol to customers. (Our calls to the owner of Malone’s have yet to be returned.)
Scott says that although the OLCC has the legal grounds prosecute bars in violation of ORS 471.412, it is very difficult to win those cases in court. “Those cases are challenging to make because the [OLCC] inspector must prove that the server or bartender knew that the customer was intoxicated and continued to serve him or her.” In order to build a strong case, the OLCC uses undercover agents who look for illegal serving behavior. Even though the statute doesn’t require the agent to see the violation, Scott says they’ve seen so many cases thrown out in court due to weak evidence that it has become standard procedure. (The OLCC has tried to change the law to make it easier to issue a citation, but they’ve been unsuccessful thus far.)
“If people think this is a problem, they need to speak up. The neighborhood associations the advocates, and the victims.”
— Scott Kocher
In the case of Malone’s, Scott says the agents never witnessed a violation. But, she added, “It’s not to say there aren’t issues; but everyone is innocent until proven guilty so it’s impossible for me to tell you they’re over-serving.”
Beyond a citation from the OLCC, Scott says, most establishments and their employees have more to lose from the possible civil litigation that can result from over-serving a customer who goes on to cause a crash due to their impaired state.
Ernie Conway is a former Beaverton City Council candidate and active neighborhood advocate. He’s also Chair of the City of Beaverton’s Traffic Commission. He said the Traffic Commission deals mostly with engineering issues; but that these lists should be on the radar of neighborhood groups. “If there were a high DUI rate or the business was in the NAC [Neighborhood Association Coalition], I believe folks would be very interested and concerned.”
Sergeant Todd Davis, a 27-year veteran with the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division, said he’d never heard of the list but he was very interested to see which establishments made the top ten. Interestingly, he also added that even if PPB officers knew about “problem bars” they wouldn’t target them. Asked why they wouldn’t just station a patrol car outside certain bars, he said “As a rule, we don’t just sit outside the bars, it’s never been an accepted practice.”
Kocher, the lawyer who represents DUII victims, thinks more people should know about these lists. “When a victim finds out they were hit by a drunk driver who came out of a bar that has been sending dozens of drivers out onto the road with too much to drink, their reaction is outrage.”
According to Ms. Scott with the OLCC, the list is not distributed to any agencies or advocacy groups, but it’s a public document that can be requested by anyone via their website.
Kocher hopes the lists lead to greater awareness of the issue. “If people think this is a problem, they need to speak up. The neighborhood associations the advocates, and the victims.”
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org
BikePortland is supported by the community (that means you!). Please become a subscriber or make a donation today.
If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at email@example.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.
Why not hang around bars and have people tested? If they seem intoxicated and are unlocking and entering a motor vehicle, see what their BAC is. And another thought — ban parking lots at bars. How do they think people are getting home? (Just being obnoxious. But flame on!)
DUI checkpoints are illegal in oregon, hanging outside a specific bar and testing everyone would probably run afoul of the same legal issues as a roadblock.
Cops do actually hang outside bars around last call. Instead of doing random testing, they’ll just follow you for a few blocks and wait for you to fail to use your signal properly or not completely stop at that stop sign. Same difference.
Ok I can’t stop. Really, texting and phoning while driving is a much bigger safety hazard, and really not enforced.
I was reading (don’t have the source handy) that Washington is pulling over many impaired drivers … on pot.
Wonder how that’s gonna play out in Colorado ?
At much slower speeds than other “under the influence” traffic stops I expect.
I’m not even sure how they got such a low level approved in WA… the article says 5 ng/ml…
here’s what wikipedia says:
so the science says that you can get a DUII in WA if you haven’t even smoked in weeks… they’re calling that “impaired”…
but it’s easier for them to throw out a blanket number rather than to actually test if you’re impaired…
and apparently they shouldn’t even have a THC limit…
Jonathan Maus, can you just publish the entire list?
Is it possible that Washington County patrols for DUII more frequently than other jurisdictions?
it makes sense that places that are less dense would have more DUI patrols…
There are 3 Police forces patrolling in the area that these bars are in: Beaverton PD, Hillsboro PD, and Washington County Sheriff’s Dept. Their jurisdictions overlap along 185th. This very well could account for the high numbers, but living a block from the Peppermill I will say that drunk drivers leaving there are a noticeable problem. So likely a combination of these two factors.
Let’s change the Oregon Constitution to specifically allow random sobriety stops. What’s wrong with having the driver actually take responsibility?
As for all of you who would complain about random sobriety stops for drivers, I’d ask what’s the difference between that and the TSA security screening at airports? We are all treated as potential terrorists when we seek to board an airplane. Why don’t we treat all drivers as users of a potentially deadly auto?
TSA is security theater. It creates a context of fear which has allowed authoritarian bullies to chip away at civil rights. Are you really saying you approve of being treated as a potential terrorist? And in how many other situations would you abide this sort of treatment? Do you want a society where we have goons with guns demanding we submit to searches and detention? “On your belly! I said show me your hands! This is for your safety!”
Besides, the only way for checkpoints to be effective is if they were universal, outside every bar in every town, and there just isn’t the manpower for that. If the checkpoint is just a random possibility, drunk drivers will roll the dice–the first stage of impairment is diminished judgement.
It’s probably also worth remembering that the next time you’ve just had a couple of pints with dinner, and you’re feeling just fine to drive, you are also likely above the legal limit. Those checkpoints will sweep you up with all those folks you might deem as a real danger. People won’t like that. In Oregon you can be arrested even if you’re well under the limit, just because an officer identifies signs that you might be impaired. (“The subject was non-compliant, your honor, he did not respect my authoritah.”)
We have come a long way since drunk driving was basically considered sport. Social stigma has helped tremendously. Obviously, though, we have a long way to go. On this past New Year’s Eve, the state police reported 70 DUI arrests, which is probably enough to occupy them completely. So, who’d care to guess how many actual drunk drivers were out that night? Go sit down at any bar, any day, and watch how many people sit down for more than a couple, then pick up their keys off the bar. Unless they’re sloppy drunk, even the bartender won’t stop them. The numbers are huge; there are plenty of establishments which could account for all 70 New Year’s arrests.
I wish I had an answer, but as a former drunk driver myself (no one was hurt during those years, I’m happy but ashamed to report), I can assure you this is a more complex, more pervasive problem than we can handle with law enforcement, unless we’re willing to accept a totalitarian state.
This is an outrage!
In order to make people safe, we need to take all our tax money away from roads, schools, and other public services immediately! I’m also calling for the immediate suspension of the constitution, especially the provisions covering due process, unreasonable searches, and freedom of movement.
After all, it’s for the children, isn’t it? And children are our future!
Over 10,000 people in the US (including over 200 children) die every year from DUI crashes. What is your point, again?
over 30,000 a year in the US actually… about the same number that guns kill…
sorry, 30,000 was all motor vehicle deaths…
but yes, 31% of all traffic deaths in 2010 involved DUI…
69% of drivers suck even when sober. 🙂
So, let’s do a pedestrian crosswalk sting outside of some of these places. We’re targeting crosswalk violations, not looking for DUIs. Of course, if a driver who gets stopped appears intoxicated, then we’ll have to make him blow into a tube….
“As a rule, we don’t just sit outside the bars, it’s never been an accepted practice.”
Well, why not?
I do like Dwaine’s idea here. It enhances pedestrian safety AND targets DUIIs at the same time. Although an awful lot of drivers disregard crosswalk laws, I’d bet nearly 100% of intoxicated drivers do.
I was attempting to cross this one yesterday, with a kid on the other side trying to cross towards me. 5 cars continued on through it before we were able to muscle our way through.
It’d be interesting to see a map showing, for every crash involving a DUII, the bar of origin (where there is one that is known).
Not surprised about the Peppermill. I live 2 blocks from it.
I’d never tell a cop what bar I just came from…
why is all the attention always on the driving part? I’m in favor of more drunk people at the expense of less driving people… let them drink and walk or bus home…
stop shaming the drinking…
start shaming the thing that’s actually killing people, the motor vehicle…
drunks aren’t going to kill anybody else without a weapon…
Can’t rec this enough. The problem is that our skeletal late night transit work and our atrocious taxicab system conspire to make people choose drinking and driving as the “default” option. Some people may bike instead and hey, that’s great. At least they’re risking their own lives, not those of innocent people.
Legalized ridesharing would definitely help, though.
Umm… I don’t really want to point out the obvious, but really, why is this on BikePortland? It doesn’t have anything to do with bicycling…
In case you haven’t noticed, “BikePortland” has evolved over the years to cover a litany of transportation issues across the city, state, and even nation. But I think the “BikePortland” name is catchy – please don’t change it to the more apt “TransportationAmerica” Jonathan!
And to answer your question specifically: this article sheds some light, with actual statistics and gov’t notices mind you, on the forever argument of which mode of transportation has the most scofflaws. Or at least the most dangerous ones.
Thanks for the question Chris.
When people drive drunk they make a dangerous activity – driving – even more dangerous. Since people on bikes share the roads with people in cars, I think it’s very important to follow trends and information about drunk driving. It’s also worth noting that many of the most tragic and horrible stories I’ve written over the years involved a drunk driver.
Im wondering how much research you actually did before this article. Washington county has such a high number of dui’s because cops do constantly patrol the parking lots, whether they admit to that fact or not. A lot of the people being pulled over aren’t even blowing over the legal limit of .08 yet are still arrested and given a dui. I’ve worked in Beaverton bars for years and even been pulled over just leaving work having had nothing to drink, all it takes is you pulling out of the parking lot to get arrested. They target these bars, simple as that, That’s why they are at the top of the list. Oh and they also arrest people walking home drunk. Maybe people should take responsibility for thier own actions and not blame the bar in which they probably got cut off at and promised to take a cab.
Because a lot of people riding bicycles are hit by drivers who are DUI, and a large proportion of those end up dead. I was hit by a suspected DUI in 2001 while riding my bike home from work. My best friend and former business partner (business closed but still friends) lost 2 GF in short order to DUI back in the ’80s, one of them was riding a bike.
bike lanes and bus stops next to each of the 3 locations…
again, what’s their excuse for driving drunk?
Please. The bus stops might as well be vestigial at the time of night most people go out drinking. Especially way out on 185th.
yes, the buses don’t run very often in Washington County… that was one of the reasons I quit working out there… but once the buses quit the bikes can take over (and without dodging the buses at bus stops)…
Just because the bars are on 185th, with transit and bike facilities nearby, doesn’t mean the patrons’ homes have good transit or bike access.
Nor does it mean that they live directly on the transit line that goes past the bars (the 52). Add transfer time penalties in that part of the region and forget it, you’re going to drive. Again, this is assuming the service is even RUNNING.
They might, but the vast majority aren’t interested in riding bikes for transportation. They’d rather drive drunk.
Doesn’t help that the penalty is the same on a bike, but really the parking lots — do they even have one staple?
it’s about as related as “real estate” Beat.
There are serious flaws with using the information from this list as a way to show these bars are problems. The fact that 80% of the top ten come from Washington Co. and the top three are all Wash Co. shows that they are most likley reporting at a higher level than other cities/counties.
DUII is a problem but once again the bars aren’t the issue, the drivers are. Let’s not use this highly flawed data as “proof” of anything. This is not jurnalisiam this is sensationalism.
> the top three are all Wash Co. shows that they are most likley reporting at a higher level than other cities/counties.
I don’t understand your logic.
> Let’s not use this highly flawed data as “proof” of anything.
If the data is “highly flawed”, perhaps that is a bigger issue to be addressed. I’m not convinced that is the case though.
All these bars could be operating within the law… the threshold for “visibly intoxicated” is much less than the .08 that defines DUII. You can drink 2 pints, surpass .08 BAC, not be visibly intoxicated, and go kill someone.
A much better solution is to enforce crosswalk laws and catch the people who are drunk, stoned, medicated, or just not paying attention.
What else to expect? So much of Washington County is an oasis of parking lots. They have plans to widen numerous roads and add more car lanes.