Senate keeps grocery stores from selling wine, strong beer
Jeremy Dickie, The Oklahoma Daily
Wine and high-point beer will remain unavailable at grocery stores in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties after a measure by Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, was rejected by the Senate Committee on Business and Labor.
Senate Joint Resolution 62 would have sought final approval from voters statewide before it became a state constitutional amendment.
The issue in the proposed measure was one of economic development, Rice said by e-mail.
“There are major grocery store chains such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods that are hesitant to put stores in Oklahoma given that they would not be able to sell wine,” Rice said.
Wine accounts for a large portion of these stores’ profits, Rice said.
Rice said he intended for this measure to eventually include more than just Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.
“I was and still am more than willing to add the other 75 counties to the bill,” he said. “But I just wanted to start with the state’s two largest and see what the reaction to the legislation would be.”
Proposing the measure to only include those two counties was an effective way of “taking baby steps” on the issue, he said.
Oklahomans for Alcohol Law Reform (OFALR) is a group that intends to change the current Oklahoma alcohol laws, according the group’s Web site.
“We feel these laws impede upon our rights as consumers,” the Web site stated. “We seek to revise the current laws to make obtaining fresher and higher quality products easier.”
Chris Herford, an official with OFALR, said his group was opposed to Rice’s measure because it only allowed grocery stores to sell cold high-point beer.
The bill would have hurt the retail package stores and probably would have caused half of them to shut down, Herford said.
“The local Oklahoma-owned liquor stores cannot compete with Wal-Mart on price or convenience,” he said. “It would have been devastating to them.”
Herford said his group supports Oklahoma small business owners.
“While we didn’t agree with [Sen. Rice’s] approach to the problem, we are just thankful that there is a senator out there that is supportive of our cause,” the OFALR site stated.
Aaron Petrone, owner of Campus Liquors in Norman, said he is opposed to wine and strong beer being sold in grocery stores.
“I can’t sell anything other than beer, wine and liquor,” he said. “So if Wal-Mart can sell beer and wine and everything else, they’re at a much greater advantage.”
If grocery stores could sell wine and strong beer, many small businesses that sell liquor would have to shut down, he said.
Officials with Wal-Mart and Target declined to comment for this story.