Posted on: April 20, 2023

Oregon Liquor Laws: Liquor Licenses vs. Alcohol Permits

Oregon Liquor Laws

Oregon liquor laws can be confusing and have a lot of fine print, whether you're trying to buy alcohol, run a business, or make a little cash as a bartender.

Today, we'll tackle the most common questions that consumers have about Oregon liquor laws. Then we'll look at Oregon's liquor laws from a seller/server point of view, including who needs an alcohol service permit and how you get one.

What Time Can You Buy Alcohol In Oregon?

Businesses that are licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption are allowed to start serving alcohol at 7 a.m. every day of the week.

For off-premises businesses, like liquor stores, Oregon beer sales hours start an hour earlier at 6 a.m.

What Time Do They Stop Selling Alcohol In Oregon?

Oregon bars' closing time is 2:30 a.m. at the latest. In fact, businesses with off-premises licenses stop selling at the same time.

However, some businesses may choose to close earlier at their own discretion.

What's The Drinking Age In Oregon?

Like everywhere else in the U.S., you have to be 21 or older to purchase and consume alcohol legally in Oregon.

There's only one exception. Parents or legal guardians can legally provide alcohol to their own minor children under 21, but they have to:

  • Be in a private residence, and
  • Remain with their child the entire time

In other words, it's never legal for a business to serve alcohol to minors at a bar or restaurant. Other states allow it in the presence and with the permission of a parent or guardian, but not Oregon.

What's the Legal Alcohol Limit in Oregon?

If you're over 21 and driving on a regular license, you're considered legally drunk when your Blood Alcohol Concentration is 0.08 or more. Those with commercial driver's licenses are held to a higher standard, so they're considered drunk at 0.04.

If you're under 21, any amount of alcohol detected in the blood will qualify you as legally drunk.

What Are Oregon's Open Container Laws?

Open container laws in Oregon apply in two separate settings: in cars and in public.

Oregon Open Container Laws for Vehicles

Oregon's open container laws make it illegal to have any open alcohol container in the seating area of your vehicle. The law covers passengers as well as drivers. The law also applies to parked cars, not just cars in motion.

The only exception is for limousines. People can consume alcohol in the passenger area of a limo, but it's still illegal to have an open container in the cab area.

There's a related Oregon liquor law that bans off-premises licensees from selling through a drive-up window.

Oregon Open Container Laws for Public Property

It's also illegal to have an open container of alcohol when you're on public property like streets, sidewalks, or public rights-of-way.

There are exceptions for permitted community events and sidewalk cafes.

Under some circumstances, Oregon liquor laws allow certain licensed businesses to let you leave the premises with a non-sealed bottle of alcohol as long as you're over the age of 21 and not visibly intoxicated. For example, you can buy a growler from a local brewery, and you can take home the remainder of a wine bottle you purchased with dinner. Legal changes during the pandemic also made it possible to sell mixed drinks and wine servings for off-premises consumption.

What's the Age for Serving Alcohol in Oregon?

Although the drinking age is 21, you can legally serve or sell alcohol from the age of 18, but there are a few caveats.

Employees aged 18-20 may NEVER:

  • Mix drinks.
  • Serve drinks in the bar or lounge area.
  • Take food orders in areas prohibited to minors.

In areas of the business where minors are allowed, 18- to 20-year-olds must be employed primarily for food service, but they can (in connection with food service) take orders for and serve alcohol, pour for patrons at the table, and draw from a tap as long as the tap isn't in a restricted area.

They can only enter areas where minors are prohibited long enough to perform limited duties, like restocking supplies, setting or clearing tables, and delivering food.

What's the Difference Between a Liquor License and an Alcohol Permit in Oregon?

In Oregon, a liquor license authorizes a person, company, or business to sell, manufacture, import, or distribute alcohol – the type of license will vary based on which activities you need to perform.

Alcohol permits are different. They're required for the employees of such businesses who are directly involved in the day-to-day business of selling or serving alcohol to patrons.

So, do you need a liquor license to sell beer in Oregon?

If you're a business, the answer is yes. You will need a liquor license. If you're an individual whose name isn't on the business license, what you need is called an alcohol service permit.

Who Needs an Oregon Alcohol Permit? Who Doesn't?

Oregon alcohol service permits are only required for workers who are involved in the service or sale of open containers of alcohol.

Most employees that work for businesses with an off-premises license won't need an alcohol service permit unless they're filling growlers from a tap. If you only sell manufacturer-sealed containers for consumption off the premises, you don't need an alcohol permit.

You do need a permit if you work for a business with an on-premises liquor license and you're directly involved in alcohol sales or service. Oregon alcohol permits are mandatory if you mix, sell, or serve alcohol for consumption on premises, or if you directly supervise people who do.

Most bouncers, bussers, janitors, or security personnel at facilities with on-premises licenses are exempt as long as they're not also involved in service. If you'll never mix, serve, sell, or supervise the sale of alcohol, you don't need a permit.

If you're individually named on the liquor license, you won't need a service permit, but you are required to take the same kind of alcohol server education class as part of the licensing process.

How Do You Earn an Oregon Alcohol Permit?

To earn an Oregon alcohol server permit, you must successfully complete an alcohol server education class that's approved by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC).

Once you have a certificate of completion for an approved class, you need to submit an online application through the OLCC's portal and pay the required fees, which come in just under $30.

Service permits are valid for 5 years. To avoid interruptions, you'll need to take the approved class and submit an application before your permit expires.

Learn More About Oregon Liquor Laws with TIPS Training

This FAQ only scratches the surface of Oregon liquor laws, and if you're a licensee, manager, or server at a licensed establishment, you're responsible for knowing a whole lot more.

Online TIPS training is approved by the OLCC for liquor licenses and service permits.  You'll learn how to avoid illegal alcohol sales, identify people who are misusing alcohol, handle related situations, and maintain a safe environment for your coworkers and patrons.

Enroll today to get started!