Howiee's On Front owners will lose liquor license after state ruling

The OLCC said that Howiee's owners are selling the business after 'a history of serious and persistent problems.'

Posted: Dec 19, 2019 4:08 PM
Updated: Dec 19, 2019 5:33 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — A mainstay of Medford's night life will need new ownership following a final ruling from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). The current owners of Howiee's On Front will be selling the business and losing their liquor license, the OLCC says.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the OLCC said that Howiee's had a "history of serious and persistent problems involving disturbances, lewd or unlawful activities or noise" and cited three major violations that led to its decision.

The first violation involved 51 "serious incidents" at the bar between December of 2016 and May of 2019 — most of which earned a response from Medford Police, and most of which involved highly intoxicated patrons fighting security, employees, or other patrons.

"The number, frequency, and nature of the ongoing incidents . . . demonstrate that Licensee does not have the willingness or ability to adequately control the licensed premises and behavior in the immediate vicinity of the premises," the OLCC wrote in its original proposal.

The second violation alleges that a Howiee's bartender got into a fight with a patron on July 19 of 2018.

Finally, the OLCC found that Howiee's staff had "permitted the dispensing, pouring or otherwise serving of alcoholic beverages directly into a person’s mouth with a syringe-like device," a violation of Oregon law.

In addition to losing rights to sell liquor on or off the premises, the OLCC said that Howiee's owners David and Debra Hawkins will receive a "Letter of Reprimand" for the violations.

While any one violation — or even two — might have resulted in a less significant penalty, the OLCC considers three violations within such a short period to be "aggravating cirumstances."

"It is an aggravating factor when there are three or more violations within a two-year period, regardless of the category, where the number of violations indicate a disregard for the law or failure to control the premises," the OLCC wrote in its proposal.

NewsWatch 12 reached out to Howiee's for comment. A member of the Howiee's staff said that they would have a statement soon. In a brief post on the Howiee's Facebook page, the bar says it will remain open under new ownership.

"We truly hope that the people who have chosen to frequent our establishment since July 1, 2019 have seen that not only is Howiees a fun place to come but that also our new staff has been friendly and courteous," Howiee's said.

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