Liquor retailers seek changes in law

The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma (RLAO) wants the state to loosen up its liquor laws.

Bryan Kerr, president of the RLAO announced a number of liquor law changes that are being pitched to state lawmakers.

“Many will be surprised to hear this coming from a group which represents 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,” Kerr said in a press release.

Earlier this year, State Sen. Stephanie Bice authored SB 383, which incorporates changes in the liquor laws.

The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma has proposed these changes:

  1. Oklahoma should move to single strength (strong) refrigerated beer for all outlets which 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 products and have them delivered by a properly licensed employee of a retail package store.
  5. Customers should be allowed to attend tastings inside 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.

The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma 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.

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.

Missing from the RLAO¹s proposal is the ability for liquor stores to be open before 10 a.m. or after 9 p.m. “Although it would be economically beneficial for our stores to be open more days and hours, the survey conducted by Sooner Poll showed weak support for such changes,” Kerr said. “In addition, it is just not good public policy. Dozens of studies have shown that the major contributing factors to alcohol-related crime and underage access are the density of outlets and the operating hours of those outlets.

“We already have enough issues with 3.2 beer being sold in too many spots and for too many hours of the day. To compound those with even stronger alcohol while adding another 600-plus outlets to the equation would be irresponsible.”

An Oklahoma study done by the Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement commission (ABLE) demonstrated that more than 85 percent of all alcohol-related traffic accidents and more than 80 percent of all alcohol-related traffic fatalities among those under the age of 21 were caused solely by the consumption of (3.2) beer – beer that was either purchased or stolen from a grocery or convenience store.

Retail package stores are much less likely to be targeted by underage drinkers due to both the seriousness of the penalties for selling to a minor and the fact that the owner of that business is very likely to be right there to properly ID and stop such activity, Kerr said.

Those stores are also required to employ only those at least 21 years of age and have those employees licensed through ABLE, even if they are just stocking the product.

“These are tried-and-true preventative measures that work. We support keeping them in place,” said Kerr. “Although the RLAO has worked for incremental changes in the past, this is the first time we¹ve seen such a comprehensive and progressive proposal from this organization.

“Although many of the laws dealing with alcohol in Oklahoma are in the best interest of the public, some were really never needed and some have outlived their usefulness. Our proposal fully addresses this and we hope that both the legislature and the public will agree.”