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Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission examines infused drink rule after bar manager's arrest

After an Oklahoma City bar manager was arrested on a complaint of serving bacon-infused vodka, the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission is poised to rule that current state law does not ban bars and restaurants from selling such drinks.

As craft cocktails have come into fashion, more Oklahoma bars are serving drinks made with liquors infused with ingredients ranging from jalapenos to breakfast cereal.  

The Pump Bar, 2425 N Walker, recently ran afoul of Oklahoma City police for its infused vodkas made with bacon, beef, garlic and pickles. The bar once featured a popular bacon-infused Bloody Mary on its brunch menu.  

In February, the Oklahoma City Police Department's vice unit arrested Colin Grizzle, a manager at The Pump, after bottles of infused vodka were found at the bar. Grizzle was later charged with the municipal offense of maintaining a disorderly house. 

"Once a bottle of alcohol is open, you are not allowed to add things to it and reseal it," Oklahoma City police Master Sgt. Gary Knight said. "They were mixing drinks, pouring it out of a bottle and infusing bacon garlic, pickle juice, and pouring it back into the containers. They couldn't even remember what they had put in it." 

In a joint statement with ABLE, attorney John Maisch said he had reached a tentative agreement with ABLE staff on whether state law bans infused drinks. The ruling is still subject to approval by a vote of the ABLE Commission at its next meeting July 15.  

Maisch is representing The Pump Bar in the administrative matter. The ABLE Commission has not pursued any administrative citations against The Pump. 

Maisch said there are a dozen or more bars in the state that serve similar infused drinks, and none that he is aware of have faced citations from the ABLE Commission. 

“I think that we certainly respect the Oklahoma City Police Department and I'm confident that OCPD is willing to work with small businesses and restaurant owners to reach a solution as well,” Maisch said. “I think it also needs to be clear that local law enforcement is charged with enforcing state liquor statutes, not interpreting state liquor statutes.” 

Maisch asked the ABLE Commission for direction on whether Oklahoma law expressly bans the creation or sale of infused alcoholic beverages by mixed beverage licensees.

ABLE Commissioners asked staff to work with its enforcement division and petitioner on the declaratory ruling, while seeking to assure other mixed-beverage licensees that administrative citations would not be issued against those licensees selling infused drinks until the commission could issue its ruling at its next meeting on July 15, ABLE and Maisch said in the statement. 

“ABLE staff met with both its enforcement division and petitioner this past week and have reach a tentative agreement on proposed language for a declaratory ruling,” Maisch and ABLE said in a joint statement. “The proposed ruling, which is subject to full ABLE Commission approval, states that Oklahoma statutes do not prohibit infused drinks from being created and sold by the mixed beverage licensee, on the licensed premises, for consumption on the licensed premises, provided the infused beverages are infused and dispensed in food-safe containers, not in tax-paid alcoholic beverage containers.”

Oklahoma City attorney Billy Bock is representing The Pump for a ticket it received from police for the incident. The Pump already has paid the ticket, but is still examining its options in the matter, Bock said.


Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›