KGOU

Arrest Over 'Bacon Vodka' Prompts Questions From Oklahoma’s Alcohol Commission

Jun 23, 2016

The manager of The Pump Bar near the Paseo Arts District in Oklahoma City was recently arrested for infusing the bar's liquors with other flavors, including bacon, jalapeños, and garlic.

Updated June 27, 11:59 a.m.

According to documents provided by the Oklahoma City Police Department, the municipal code violation that triggered the arrest was Article 5, Section 30-97 as defined in Section 30-96: Maintaining a disorderly house by violation of the state's prohibition laws by the unlawful refill of a liquor bottle.

The referenced state law is found in Title 37, Chapter 3, Section 584:

§37-584.  Refilling container with certain substances prohibited.

No holder of a mixed beverage, beer and wine, caterer, special event, public event or airline/railroad beverage license shall refill with any substance a container which contained any alcoholic beverage on which the tax levied by Section 553 of this title has been paid.

Added by Laws 1985, c. 6, § 98, emerg. eff. March 14, 1985.  Amended by Laws 1994, c. 361, § 23; Laws 2014, c. 298, § 23.

 
Oklahoma City Police Master Sgt. Gary Knight told The Journal Record that the opened bottles contained bacon, vegetables and pickle juice.

"You cannot put anything into it and serve it," Knight said. "You can only pour out of it."

Original Post

The bar’s owner, Ian McDermid, is fighting the criminal charge against his employee, but he’s also asked the state to determine whether establishments like his can add fruit, vegetable, spices, and cured meats to alcohol, The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt reports:

At The Pump Bar, brunch-time bloody marys are served with vodka enhanced with either bacon slices or a jalapeno-garlic combo. Or they were until a local police officer stepped in.

“You should see the look on people’s faces, the laughs, when you say my manager went to county lockup for three days because we put strips of bacon inside a bottle of vodka,” McDermid said.

Because an Oklahoma City police officer made the arrest, and because state regulations don’t explicitly mention infusion, McDermid hired a lawyer to ask the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission for a declaratory ruling. He wants to know if it’s legal, and if so, which method of infusion is legal. The manager’s criminal case is pending.

During June’s ABLE Commission meeting, director Keith Burt said he hadn’t received a notice from the Oklahoma City Police Department about the arrest. John Maisch, a former ABLE attorney, presented the declaration to commissioners, who seemed supportive of the infusion process. But they decided to hold off on answering questions, Denwalt writes:

“If the restaurants are doing something unlawful, then they need to be notified that it’s unlawful,” Maisch said. “There are dozens of restaurants throughout the state of Oklahoma that are infusing drinks, so if it’s illegal then someone has neglected to tell them.”

The ABLE Commission could present its ruling at the next meeting on July 15.

Until he gets a favorable ruling, McDermid told The Journal Record that he’s missing part of his brunch crowd who’ve gone to other restaurants - places who haven’t been cited for infused drinks:

In just the second half of 2015, when he first started selling the drink, sales of bloody marys topped $16,000.

“(Customers) ask for it every brunch, and they’re always disappointed,” he said.

KGOU is a community-supported news organization and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.