Running Dry: The Rainbow Market is the last spot to buy alcohol before the Warm Springs reservation, but the OLCC wants to change that. | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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Running Dry: The Rainbow Market is the last spot to buy alcohol before the Warm Springs reservation, but the OLCC wants to change that. 

A woman sets a case of beer on the counter of the store, but waves the customer behind her to take a turn at the register.

"I'm not done," she says, smiling.

She returns to a wall of coolers, one of which, like something out of television advertisement, is filled from floor to ceiling exclusively with familiar red-and-white Budweiser iconography - the original Budweiser, that is - and grabs more beer. Outside, the Friday evening traffic buzzes past on Highway 26, riding along the Deschutes River, but the store's parking lot is largely vacant.

But within minutes, right around 5 p.m., pickup trucks, cars and two SUVs turn off the highway and into the parking lot. For a moment, it's like something out of Mad Max. The drivers and passengers in those vehicles head into the market, which aside from its beer coolers, features several rows of fully stocked food shelves, emerging moments later with six packs and cases of beer. Smiles and pleasantries are exchanged between customers both inside and outside the store. Some have groceries, but beverages seem to dominate the shopping list of the patrons, who return to their vehicles and drive back across the bridge.

This is the Rainbow Market, as the painted sign above its windowless door denotes, a longtime institution along the river and the last store that sells alcohol before passing onto the Warm Springs reservation, which only allows alcohol sales at its Kah-Nee-Ta resort and casino. This may soon change, as the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) slapped the market with a ticket this fall that could strip the market of its license to sell beer and wine because of what the state agency broadly calls a "history of serious and persistent problems" with more than 80 police calls to the location in the past two years.

In 2008, the OLCC cancelled a total of eight licenses, two of which were for this same "history of serious and persistent problems" infraction. This year, the agency has pulled four licenses, one for persistent problems. But for both of those years there were many more proposed cancellations (32 in 2008 and 19 this year) that were reduced to fines or suspensions or, like the Rainbow Market, are still in the hearing process.

But the market's owner and its legal counsel say that the Rainbow has been targeted by the OLCC because it's the only business of its kind in the area and is often mentioned in police reports because, other than a long-defunct neighboring gas station, there's not much else in the area to use as a landmark.

From the report, it's clear that the OLCC has had its regulatory eye on the Rainbow Market for some time. The recent ticket for a history of problems, one of the most serious infractions issued by the OLCC, comes after the market successfully appealed a proposed 30-day license suspension stemming from a bizarre drug possession arrest.

In that case, which took place in May of 2008, an off-duty employee of the market was arrested nearby with methamphetamine and marijuana and told the deputies that he'd found the drugs at work. The case went to an administrative law judge, who sided with the OLCC, despite the fact that the arresting deputy said that he didn't believe the man's story - one he said he often hears during drug arrests - that the meth wasn't his, but had been found at the Rainbow Market during his shift.

The case went to the OLCC's board of commissioners, who decided unanimously in late October of this year to dismiss the case, citing that there was no way to prove that the drugs had actually been found at the market. But less than two weeks before the dismissal, the market received a letter from the OLCC proposing to pull the Rainbow's license, not for the drug arrest (although that is mentioned in the 12-page document), but rather for a culmination of problems surrounding the market for which they'd been ticketed for in June. A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for mid April of next year.

The ticket was issued by the OLCC's Bend office, which oversees Central Oregon and areas as far away as Pendleton and was once managed by Jason Evers, who became the subject of an Oregon Department of Justice investigation after complaints from local business owners alleging Evers' unfair regulatory practices hit a fever pitch this summer. Evers was relocated to the OLCC's Medford branch and the results of the DOJ investigation may come down as soon as next week. But even with that in mind, OLCC investigators insist that the Rainbow Market is getting a fair shake.

The OLCC, in its letter proposing to pull the market's license, references more than 80 specific instances that it believes illustrate the "history of serious and persistent problems." The alleged incidents included in the list include violent, lewd and drunken activities on or near the premises of the Rainbow Market, which the store's attorney believes has more to do with the store's location than its alcohol sales.

"Anything that happens down there seems to be reported as the Rainbow Market," says Tim Gassner, the attorney representing the Rainbow Market, which has been owned since the 1980s by Roxanne McInturff, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

Aside from the dismissed drug possession complaint, the Rainbow Market has been sanctioned for two other violations in the past few years. In 2006, the market failed to submit a clerk training form, resulting in a fine. In May of 2007, the market was ticketed for permitting alcohol consumption in the parking lot, which resulted in a 23-day license suspension. For the current complaint to cancel the market's license, however, OLCC is looking exclusively at relatively recent incidents.

"We generally look at the last two years and the seriousness of the incidents and how often they've been occurring," says OLCC spokesperson Christie Scott, outlining how the agency goes about handling cases of "serious and persistent problems."

Again, the list of instances (50 of which the OLCC calls "serious") is lengthy, diverse and features some events that are open for interpretation as to their correlation to the market and it's alcohol-selling practices. Here's a sampling of the list:

On May 6, 2008 at about 6:26 p.m., JCSO (Jefferson County Sheriff's Office) received a report that there were two intoxicated males outside the premises. One of the males had his pants down and was trying to take advantage of the other male.

On June 25, 2008 at about 6:49 p.m., WSPD (Warm Springs Police Department) reported to JCSO that there was a man lying on the ground adjacent to the premises and that he had been there for some time. JCSO determined that the man was sleeping.

But some of the noted events feature actual criminal activity:

On April 2, 2008 at about 4:58 p.m., JCSO responded to a fight in progress outside the premises. A female hit a male three or four time with a closed fist. The female was arrested for Assault IV and the male was taken to the hospital. Both individuals had the victim's blood on them; the male's face was covered in blood.

On July 28, 2008 at about 11:30 a.m. JCSO received a report that a highly intoxicated male was at the premises and planning to drive home. The male had been coming and going from the premises all morning.

The market is located off the reservation on Jefferson County land, but Warm Springs police have been involved in reporting incidents near or at the market to Jefferson County deputies. Although Warm Springs police chose not to comment for this story on the issues surrounding the market, Gassner says the department has provided input on how the market can improve.

The Rainbow Market has taken steps to quell the problems surrounding the business, including an open meeting last month with different community members, law enforcement agencies, OLCC representatives, a tribal counseling group and others. Gassner says a plan was formulated to address the concerns about the market raised by the OLCC.

Ted Brunoe, assists his sister, Roxanne McInturff, in operating the market and said that Oregon State Police raised questions during the community meeting as to what problems may occur should the market stop selling alcohol.

"It was noticeable to state police that there was an increase in accidents between Warm Springs and Madras when we were closed [due to the aforementioned license suspension]," says Brunoe, a tribal member who has helped with the market off and on since 1972. He says that reservation residents will continue to drive to Madras should the Rainbow lose its license.

Brunoe says the market is also in the process of removing problematic items like high-alcohol-content malt liquor from the store and McInturff has reached out to Warm Springs' alcohol counseling program to lend her assistance.

"They are demonstrating a willingness to change, but still that hasn't caused the OLCC to back off," says Gassner.

Larry Brown, the OLCC inspector who ticketed the market for the ongoing problems as well as the 2008 drug arrest, continues to keep an eye on the Rainbow.

"There was a large enough number of calls [mentioning the market] that it warranted a ticket," says Brown, "The only thing I'm doing now is keeping up on the calls that are happening down there."

Brown does, note, however that he is aware of the market's desire to work with the OLCC.

Gassner believes that the OLCC is relying heavily on law enforcement call logs that mention the Rainbow Market and that this might not prove effective in the hearing.

"Arguably, many of [the police calls] have nothing to do with the Rainbow Market, but they're using those incidents anyway," he says.

* Editor's note: The Oregon Liquor Control Commission released the findings of the Department of Justice investigation on Wednesday, roughly 24 hours after this article went to press. Among other things it found that the regional office had in some cases become overzealous and appeared at times to be vindictive in its prosecution of liquor laws and rules in Central Oregon.

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