Oklahoma: Anger, Confusion Over Oklahoma Liquor Law
By Grant Hermes
May 04, 2016
After the Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out a petition to allow high-point beer and wine in grocery stores and gas stations on Tuesday, many took to the internet to share their frustration. News 9 viewers got into the mix saying in the comment section of the news story “well so much for the democratic process” and “I guess we’ll never make it to the 19th century.”
But their outrage may be too soon.
The petition, which would have been State Question 785 on the ballot, was one of a few aiming to expand alcohol laws in the state. It would have allowed wine to be sold in stores more than a half mile from a liquor store and would have limited big box stores to just four licenses. It was thrown out after the court said the description didn’t do enough to inform voters in the question’s description or gist.
“Disappointing,” Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma President Bryan Kerr said on Wednesday. Kerr owns Moore Liquor and Party Moore in the town of Moore. “It would have been a good alternative for people to vote on in November if the ‘Wal-Mart plan’ gets on the ballot in November we would’ve liked to offer something to vote that isn’t crafted by the big corporations,” he said referring to a second plan to expand alcohol laws.
Kerr added the question his association had written would protect small businesses and liquor store owners who see allowing big chain stores to freely sell high-point beer or wine as a threat to their livelihoods. He also said there were potential public safety issues with allowing so many stores to sell alcohol in one area.
Senate Joint Resolution 68 is the second plan which is still alive in the state legislature. It’s paired with another senate bill and has fewer restrictions on the sale of liquor. That question would allow any store that currently sells low point beer to also sell high point beer or wine no matter how close it is to a liquor store.
The resolution was written by out-going state Senator Clark Jolley (R-Edmond) and Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-Oklahoma City) and has met opposition from large alcohol producers like Anheuser-Busch. However Bice said Wednesday, voters have been calling for an update to the state’s alcohol laws and a charged presidential election year should bring an increase in turnout.
“Oklahomans have been really vocal about what they want to see. Modernization has been long time coming. We haven’t really made any significant changes to our alcohol laws in almost 60 years,” Bice said.
Should SJR68 be approved, it would go on the ballot in November as a constitutional amendment.