Takeaway food and drink kiosks at Moda Center Spark OLCC Inquiry

March 8: This story has been updated to note the revised service pattern at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) is monitoring potential compliance issues at the Moda Center related to the sale of self-serve alcohol.

Levy Restaurants, a national restaurant group, has been the Rose Quarter’s food, beverage and retail partner for years, responsible for catering services during Portland Trail Blazers games and other events.

This year, Levy worked with Amazon to introduce Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology to four Moda Center stores. Just Walk Out uses a self-service kiosk stocked with items.

The technology, which is also used at other professional sports venues like Seattle’s Lumen Field, uses artificial intelligence to determine which products fans select and automatically charges their cards or Amazon accounts, saving fans from having to to wait in line to pay with a cashier. . Similar technology has also been added to Veterans Memorial Coliseum, although it was recently updated to no longer use a self-service method.

This may, depending on how people feel about Amazon and artificial intelligence, save fans time in the arena. The problem? Moda Center self-serve stores currently allow fans to purchase alcohol, but self-serve alcohol is not legal at OLCC-licensed establishments.

According to Matt Van Sickle, public information officer at the OLCC, the commission was alerted to a potential compliance issue at the Moda Center earlier this season and “worked with Levy Restaurants to bring them into compliance.”

“The nature of our enforcement is largely complaint-driven,” Van Sickle wrote in an email to Mercury. “And when we are faced with a non-compliant license, our first approach is to work with them and educate them on how to get back into compliance. What happened here with the Moda Center is a perfect example.

A spokesperson for Levy, which manages food services at a number of other NBA arenas, confirmed the company has been in contact with the OLCC this season regarding self-serve stores.

“We have worked with (the) Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission to establish protocols for safe and responsible service at these new locations, which include checking IDs and opening cans and containers. bottles before guests leave the market,” a Levy spokesperson wrote in an email to the Mercury.

By checking identifications, assessing whether or not a customer is intoxicated, and opening cans and bottles for customers, self-serve stores can comply with OLCC regulations.

But that process, one employee said, still creates challenges for Levy’s employees in charge of stores.

“Customers don’t want to comply (with the checkout process), they’re resistant, they don’t want our dirty hands touching their beer,” said the employee, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “But the OLCC rule is there is no self-service and the law says it’s our responsibility, we are licensed OLCC servers.”

The employee said the mismatch between customer expectations for self-service stores and OLCC requirements forced employees to try to manage sometimes aggressive customers with little support.

“The big Levy company…and the Portland Trail Blazers have incompatible sales systems, and they put employees in a very bad position – it’s like fighting with the customer or violating your OLCC requirements,” said l ’employee.

Part of the problem, the employee said, is that Levy’s management began the season “completely unaware” that self-serve alcohol is illegal in Oregon. Levy operates in many states, some of which have different laws than Oregon regarding the provision of self-serve alcohol.

After being informed of the new stores’ compliance issues, the employee said management began asking employees to open bottles and cans for customers, but failed to provide the infrastructure support necessary to ensure workers can enforce the rules, stay safe and maintain compliance. control of their stations. At busy events, this can be a significant challenge.

Levy’s management, the employee said, also threatened retaliation against her for complaining about the situation in December.

“This whole experience made me not like basketball anymore, to be honest with you,” the employee said. “I stopped being a Trail Blazers fan because of my experience working at the stadium.”

Levy’s spokesperson said the company has a strong relationship with the OLCC, but did not respond to questions about whether the company had received complaints from employees about the self-service implementation or whether she had advised employees on how to deal with aggressive customers.

“During the season, OLCC visited the location several times to ensure that guests and team members understood how this new experience worked,” Levy’s spokesperson wrote. “We have a positive relationship with OLCC and appreciate their continued partnership in making the dining experience at Moda Center enjoyable, convenient and safe.”

Van Sickle, for his part, promised that OLCC would be back at the Moda Center in the coming months.

“We will come back to verify that they are compliant,” he wrote. “If it turns out they are still allowing self-service, we will either act to bring them into compliance or issue notices of violation.”

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