Oklahoma Restaurants Sued Over Liquor Tax

Thursday, August 18th 2011, 9:24 pm
By: News On 6

Emory Bryan, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Restaurants in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and statewide are being sued. They're accused of collectively charging their customers millions of dollars in taxes that they shouldn't have had to pay.

The lead plaintiff is John Truel, who with his lawyer alongside, says most restaurants get it right, but 40 percent of them charge too much.

Read the lawsuit

"There is a minority that is doing it wrong," Truel said. "And this minority has overcharged consumers, we estimate, in excess of $25 million in the last five years."

Here's how it breaks down: if a restaurant's advertised price is $10 for a mixed drink, the liquor tax is supposed to be included.

The allegation is that some restaurants add the liquor tax on top, creating an overcharge of 13.5 percent.

There are nine named plaintiffs, who claim they've visited 1,500 bars and restaurants to determine who is and is not figuring the tax correctly.

"We have 60 percent of the restaurants being competitive and complying with the law, we have 40 percent, not complying with the law," Lawyer Mark Henricksen said.

Many restaurants are just learning they're being sued, but the state's industry trade group denies the allegation.

The President of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association said he believes there's no basis to the claim, and says "our members are prepared to defend what they've done."

He pointed out that all liquor sales are subject to state tax audits.

"We are not trying to put anybody out of business; we're not trying to hurt anybody," Truel said. "We're just saying the majority is complying with the law, a simple majority is not, and it needs to be resolved."

The lawsuit was filed in Cleveland County, but as a class action, is on behalf of all customers of all the named establishments.