Jack Pollock
OLCC'S BLACK LABEL Robert Larry is not a popular guy with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. The manager for the busy and popular King Liquor along MLK, Larry has had intermittent but frequent friction with the OLCC. But after battling them for more than seven years, it looks like the African American businessman and head of the local NAACP chapter may have finally lost the war. Last week, the OLCC board voted unanimously to shut down King Liquor. They accused him of deliberate accounting errors that have left $40,000 unaccounted for. Larry believes racism is at play.

In a hearing, he told the board members: "What you have before you is a modern day lynching of a black man by the OLCC."

Four years ago, the Mercury reported on a series of problems that Larry had with OLCC agents. On New Year's Eve 1999, undercover agents claimed they stood in line as Larry sold to an underage patron. But when Larry produced a surveillance tape showing his store clerk checking ID, the accusations disappeared with no trace.

Likewise, in 1998, Larry won an administrative complaint against his store when he proved that missing revenue was due to an OLCC accounting error.

This time around, the OLCC says that $40,000 is missing. Liquor store managers operate under a contract with the OLCC. What's particularly strange is that it's Larry who brought the discrepancy to their attention. After his accounting system crashed last February, he notified the OLCC, but they didn't respond until sending him a warning letter in May. At the time, he deposited money to make up for a significant portion of the missing funds.

In a separate matter, in August, Larry sued the OLCC for their pilot program allowing grocery stores to sell liquor. That program, claims Larry, hurts liquor store owners who must contract with the OLCC and labor under stricter guidelines.

Larry also pointed out he is one of only three African American managers of liquor stores in Oregon. PB

BETTER THAN NOTHING! For the second year, artists working in what the city calls the "creative economy" are invited to apply for Professional Development Grants of up to $750. A total of $20,000 is available for distribution. Applications may be obtained at worksystems.org or by calling 478-7363. They are due January 31.