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Emergency Rule Reinstates Educational Tastings in Oklahoma

Emergency Rule Reinstates Educational Tastings in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – January 10, 2024 -The Oklahoma Restaurant Association is pleased to announce a significant development for the food and beverage industry in Oklahoma. The Governor has recently signed an emergency rule reinstating Educational Tastings. This practice is vital for the training and development of personnel in the hospitality sector, especially those involved in the sale and service of alcoholic beverages.

Under this emergency rule, establishments can now conduct tastings with specific criteria in place, allowing them to resume a tradition vital to the cultural and educational foundation of the industry. The Oklahoma Restaurant Association and the entire industry extend their appreciation to Governor Stitt for his timely response and pro-business approach in effectively resolving this issue.

Expanded Background:

Previously, the ABLE Commission, which is responsible for regulating alcoholic beverages in Oklahoma, unexpectedly shifted its approach to enforcing a long-standing statute, departing from historical interpretations. This abrupt change raised significant concerns among restaurant owners, employees, and the industry who had been accustomed to decades of a different approach. In response, the ORA assumed a leadership role, advocating for the industry by initiating dialogue with the ABLE Commission and the Governor’s office.

The discussions between the ORA and state officials, including the ABLE Director and their General Counsel, were constructive and resulted in the adoption of this emergency rule. This rule serves as an interim measure while the ORA works diligently to draft and pass legislation that will offer a long-term resolution to the issue.

Criteria for Educational Tastings:

45:20-14-1 Educational Alcoholic Beverage Training/Tastings for Licensees and their Employees

Mixed beverage, catering mixed beverage, and beer and wine licensees shall be authorized to host educational alcoholic beverage training which includes tastings for employees who are licensed to serve or sell alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic beverages for training purposes may be provided by wine and spirits wholesaler licensees and beer distributor licensees and shall be subject to the following requirements:

(1) All such tastings shall be conducted on a licensed premises and under the direct supervision of the licensee.

(2) Samples shall be poured by a licensee who is lawfully permitted to serve alcoholic beverages in the State of Oklahoma.

(3) Tastings shall be restricted to employees who are twenty-one (21) years of age or older.

(4) Although participation in tastings for educational purposes may be required by an employer, the choice to taste or consume alcoholic beverages shall always be voluntary. No employee may be required to taste or consume alcohol at tastings as a term of employment.

(5) An educational tasting of beer may consist of no more than six (6) separate individual beers of not more than two (2) ounces each, served together at one time. No employee may sample more than a total of twelve (12) fluid ounces of beer per day.

(6) An educational tasting of wine may consist of no more than six (6) separate individual wines of not more than one (1) ounce each, served together at one time. No employee may sample more than a total of six (6) fluid ounces of wine per day.

(7) An educational tasting of spirits shall consist of no more than three (3) separate individual spirits of not more than one-half (0.5) ounce each, served together at one time. No employee may sample more than a total of one and one-half (1.5) fluid ounces of spirits per day.

(8) Only one (1) type of alcoholic beverage (beer, wine, or spirits) shall be allowed at any educational tasting. No combination tasting shall be allowed.

(9) Employees who choose to taste an alcoholic beverage but do not wish to consume the alcoholic beverage shall be allowed to spit the beverage in a cup for disposal.

(10) Employees may participate in educational tastings before, during or after regular business hours unless otherwise prohibited by law. If employees consume alcoholic beverages as part of an educational training before or during regular business hours, they shall not be allowed to begin or resume performing regularly scheduled work duties earlier than one (1) hour after completion of the educational tasting. Employees who do not consume alcoholic beverages as part of an educational training or tasting may be allowed to begin or resume performing regularly scheduled work duties immediately after completion of training. (Note: If an employee spits the alcohol instead of consuming the alcohol, then no one (1) hour wait is required)

(11) All licensees serving samples of beer shall ensure that all samples are poured only from original sealed packaging; any alcoholic beverages remaining in unsealed packaging used to provide samples; excluding spirits and wine, are poured out by the end of the day; no more than six (6) bottles of alcoholic beverages are unsealed at any given time during tasting; and no person removes any poured samples from the licensed premises or location where the tasting has occurred.

(12) A copy of this administrative rule shall be posted at the licensed premise where a tasting will occur.

Implications and Future Steps:

The reinstatement of Educational Tastings is significant for several reasons. It allows for the continued professional development of those in the hospitality industry, offering them the chance to understand and appreciate the products they serve. This knowledge is not only important for personal growth but also enhances the customer experience, ultimately contributing to the success of the hospitality sector in Oklahoma.

The emergency rule does not cover straw testing, a practice often used to ensure the quality and consistency of beverages before they are served to customers. However, the ORA will include straw testing in the forthcoming legislation, suggesting a comprehensive approach to the regulation of beverage service and education.

The ORA’s proactive stance and collaboration with the state authorities exemplify the importance of industry-led initiatives in shaping policy. The organization’s efforts will likely continue to focus on ensuring that the permanent legislation reflects the needs and realities of the industry while upholding the standards expected by the regulatory bodies.

This situation illustrates the delicate balance between regulation and probusiness policy within the hospitality industry and highlights the ORA’s commitment to advocating for the interests of its members and the hospitality industry it serves.

Founded in 1933, the Oklahoma Restaurant Association is the trade association o­f restaurants and foodservice operations, the state’s largest private industry employer. Representing more than 4,000 restaurants and members, the ORA actively monitors legislation and regulatory agencies; helps foodservice management develop and strengthen business; and develops the membership to do together for the industry what cannot be done individually.

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