Judge certifies defendants in class action lawsuit over liquor tax
OKLAHOMA – John Truel spent two years on his investigation, going to more than 1,600 restaurants across the state and buying alcoholic drinks.
He said, a third of the time, he was overcharged.
“In my Oklahoma language, it was people that were stealing money little by little, and it totaled a lot of money,” Truel said. “If you can steal 50 cents a day from a hundred people, well, you know, and then go over the years, that’s a significant sum of money.”
At issue is an Oklahoma statute that was amended a few years ago.
It used to say the advertised price for an alcoholic drink must include the 13.5 percent alcoholic beverage tax.
Truel said many restaurants were tacking it on top of the price.
“We have people in prison that have stolen a lot less money,” Truel said.
“The only way that this injustice can be righted is through class certification and recovering the money on behalf of all the people that were mistreated,” said Truel’s attorney, Mark Henricksen.
Jim Hopper, president of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, said restaurants have had to shell out a lot of money for legal fees over the last five years in this lawsuit.
“I just know that it’s been a real burden to a lot of small businesses in Oklahoma. And, that’s what restaurants are – a very small business,” Hopper said.
And, he said they haven’t done anything wrong.
“They were doing it exactly the way that they had been told to do it from the day that the mixed beverage tax came into existence back in the 80’s,” Hopper said.
While the lawsuit involves hundreds of restaurants, a Canadian County judge recently certified three as defendants in the class action lawsuit.
Those restaurants are both Rococo’s locations in Oklahoma City and the Coach’s in Edmond, which actually closed about a year ago.
Those restaurants have indicated they will appeal the judge’s decision.
The owner of Rococo’s told us he could not comment at this time.