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Surprising Support for Updated Liquor Laws

OKLAHOMA CITY — Unexpected support has opened the door for grocery and convenience retailers in Oklahoma to sell full-strength beer.

The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma unexpectedly announced this month that it has changed its position on state regulations that limit grocery and convenience stores to selling only 3.2 beer (alcohol by weight) and limit liquor stores to sell strong beer, but only at room temperature.

“Many will be surprised to hear this coming from a group which represents [liquor-store] retailers who have regularly been accused of playing an obstructionist role when it comes to changing even some of the most antiquated laws that govern alcohol in Oklahoma,” association president Bryan Kerr said.

Currently, cold, full-strength beer can only be sold in state-licensed Retailer Package Stores, which the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma represents. Kerr, however, said that restriction is antiquated and does not meet the needs of Oklahoma consumers.

“This summer, we conducted a poll through the most respected pollster in Oklahoma, Bill Shapard of Sooner Poll, and we heard the customer loud and clear,” Kerr said. “We are committed to meeting the needs of the Oklahoma consumer without sacrificing public safety or increasing access of the product to teens and others who should not have it.”

The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma has proposed these changes to state laws:

  1. Oklahoma should move to single-strength (“strong”) refrigerated beer for all outlets that currently sell either 3.2 or strong beer.
  2. As a matter of convenience, wine should be available for purchase in a limited number of grocery stores.
  3. Customers should be able to buy mixers, corkscrews, glassware, cigars and other items inside their local Retail Package Store.
  4. Customers should be able to order our products and have them delivered by a properly licensed employee of a Retail Package Store.
  5. Customers should be allowed to attend tastings inside the premises of a Retail Package Store.
  6. Customers should be permitted to bring their child with them into a Retail Package Store.
  7. Customers should be allowed to buy liquor, wine and beer from a Retail Package Store on Independence Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day.
  8. Customers should have access to growlers and “crowlers” (growler cans) filled and sealed at a Retail Package Store.

The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma (RLOA) has also come out strongly in favor of allowing Oklahoma breweries to sell their own full-strength product at the brewery itself, either by the glass or in cans and bottles.

“It seems silly and unfair that a consumer can go to any winery in our state and enjoy a glass of wine and then buy a bottle of that exact product but they can’t do the same at Oklahoma breweries,” Kerr said.

In addition, the RLAO is proposing that Oklahoma wineries have a cap lifted on the amount of wine they can produce and still be able to self-distribute that wine.

“We are looking for as many ways as possible to help Oklahomans in the spirits, wine and beer business to better serve our customers,” Kerr said. “Our plan encourages economic growth and does away with antiquated laws while still protecting public safety. These are things our customers have asked for and the retailers want to help make it happen.”

A senate bill proposed this spring could put many of the ideas outlined by the RLOA before voters early next year.

SB 383, authored by Sen. Stephanie Bice, would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to remove restrictions on the control of low-point beer and wine, if approved.

The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma was formed in 1982 and represents the many men and women who have invested their time and money into providing quality alcoholic beverages to their neighborhoods, cities and counties. The RLAO works with the legislature and other interest groups to help craft laws that benefit both Oklahoma Package Stores and the consumer.

Steve Holtz


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