- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An Oklahoma City bar has asked the state to clarify rules on infusing liquor with flavors such as bacon after one of its employees was arrested because of the bar’s practices.

An attorney for The Pump Bar has been working with state Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission officials on language that would clarify that the infusion practice is subject to certain storage rules that comply with federal and state law, a commission spokesman said. The commission will consider adopting the language at its July 15 meeting.

“And as long as they’re not making (infused spirits) inside the liquor bottles or making it outside of the liquor bottles and putting it back in, there’s never been an issue with that,” commission spokesman Brent A. Fairchild said. “But for some reason it’s suddenly become an issue.”

At the heart of The Pump’s desire for legal clarification is the case of weeknight manager Colin Grizzle, who was arrested in April after Oklahoma City police issued the bar a second citation for improperly storing infused liquor. The commission’s ruling, however, is unlikely to make legal either of the infusion techniques The Pump was cited for using.

The Pump owner Ian McDermid told The Associated Press his bar used two infusion techniques that each resulted in a citation. The first technique involved introducing flavor-adding foods such as bacon or fruit into the bottles in which the liquor was originally packaged and sold. After the first citation in February, McDermid says, the bar switched to a second method: It emptied liquor into separate vats where flavor would be infused and then returned those infused spirits to their original bottles.

Police say The Pump’s storage of infused liquor violated federal law, prompting a municipal citation. A police spokesman cited federal law saying establishments that sell liquor may not add “any substance whatsoever to any liquor bottle” that alters the original contents. Retail liquor dealers that mix cocktails or compounds before sale “may not use liquor bottles in which distilled spirits have been previously packaged for the storage of the mixture or compound pending that sale.”

McDermid attorney John Maisch, who is meeting with commission officials to negotiate on the proposed ruling, has said the tentative language toward which officials are most receptive would still prohibit mixing or storing infused spirits in their original bottles.

“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,” Maisch said in a statement.

How this ruling would affect Grizzle’s case is unclear. The weeknight manager was released from jail and has returned to work, but resulting media coverage that included his mugshot has upset Grizzle and his family, McDermid said. McDermid says he wishes he had been held responsible for any alleged violation - not an employee who McDermid claims had nothing to do with the infusion process.

Maisch said he hopes the commission’s ruling will clarify legal infusion practices and leave interpretation of the law out of the hands of local police departments.

“Oklahoma City restaurants should not be held to one standard because they have a vice cop who wants to interpret federal law,” Maisch said.

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