The allegations made in these lawsuits are unfounded and without merit. It is unfortunate that these restaurant owners, who have always collected and remitted the taxes to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, are being forced to defend themselves against these claims that have no merit, not to mention having to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend themselves against these claims.
It is alleged the defendant restaurants have been overcharging their customers for years and that these “ill gotten gains” should be repaid from the restaurant profits. That is an interesting argument, given the fact that restaurants collect the taxes per the regulations of the OTC, and remit them to the state twice a month. Any “ill gotten gains” (and restaurants would submit there are none) reside with the state of Oklahoma, and not with the individual defendant restaurants.
It is illogical to believe that more than 800 mixed beverage license holders would all collectively miscalculate the taxes for so many years without the OTC stepping forward and saying it’s being done incorrectly. That just doesn’t make sense.
Frivolous lawsuits like these give Oklahoma a bad name and certainly take away from our collective efforts to be business friendly. Restaurants are the backbone of our communities and are the second largest employer, both nationally and in our state.
Restaurants get more than a few calls every single week from very worthy organizations asking for donations to support various community causes. And restaurants make those donations because they are involved in their communities and want to be good corporate citizens for their friends and neighbors. It doesn’t make sense that restaurants would deliberately miscalculate their taxes. Restaurants can’t afford to alienate their customers who are the lifeblood of their economic survival.
Two things are certain: This lawsuit is without merit, and restaurant customers throughout Oklahoma have not been overcharged for their mixed beverages when they dine out.
Hopper is president and CEO of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association.