Oklahoma Senate may allow wine in grocery stores
Ashley West, The Oklahoma Daily
The Oklahoma Senate will consider changing state alcohol laws to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores this legislative session.
Current Oklahoma alcohol law states wine can only be sold in liquor stores and not convenience or grocery stores.
Republican senator Clark Jolley filed a resolution proposing definitions of beer, wine and spirits to the state constitution and making it legal to sell wine in grocery stores. If the joint resolution, SJR 35, is passed, it would go on the ballot in the November 2012 election.
“The problem is that the laws are extremely complex and in the [Oklahoma] Constitution, they have to be voted on by the public,” said Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “The Legislature can authorize a referendum, or the people can file an initiative petition.”
Though Williams has not read the proposed resolution, he said he supports selling wine in grocery stores because it would be convenient for consumers.
However, Aaron Petrone, owner of Campus Liquors at 800 W. Lindsey St., said this convenience might negatively impact smaller businesses that focus only on liquor.
Because Petrone’s store can only sell alcohol and grocery stores can also sell food, it would put him and other store owners at a competitive disadvantage.
“Maybe it’s just the sad nature of capitalism, but Norman used to be small grocery stores and small liquor stores,” Petrone said. “With big retailers like Walmart, we can’t compete with that. It will probably happen eventually, but this would be the death of more small businesses.”
Selling wine in grocery stores might also make it harder for stores to regulate sales, Petrone said. In small liquor stores, Petrone said they are better able to watch out for who is purchasing alcohol.
Thirty-five states allow for the sale of wine in grocery stores, and in those states there is no shortage of successful liquor stores, Williams said.
“Liquor retailers will tell you it will put them out of business, but in Texas there are over 350 liquor stores just in Houston,” Williams said. “It hasn’t had the consequences people fear it will.”
In February 2010, the Senate rejected a resolution proposed by Democratic senator Andrew Rice attempting to change alcohol laws and allow wine in grocery stores.
Allowing wine in grocery stores might create more economic development in the state because it would bring wholesalers that rely on the business, Rice said last year about his proposal.
Though the Senate rejected the resolution last year in committee, test polls show that Oklahomans would support changes to the alcohol laws, Williams said.
“The current laws in Oklahoma are a result of laws that passed in the ’50s,” Williams said. “Our laws should be updated to match those of our competitors.”
This was Jolley’s reasoning behind filing the resolution.
“Oklahoma stands out as a state with archaic laws as it relates to legal alcohol based products,” he said in an e-mail statement. “These laws were a result of the mindset of Prohibition. As a result, we’ve basically created a monopoly, resulting in higher costs for the consumers.”
Current alcohol laws
» Alcoholic beverages containing more than 3.2 percent alcohol can only be sold in licensed liquor stores
» These beverages cannot be refrigerated
» Low-point beer intended for consumption may not be sold between 2 and 6 a.m.
» Sales are prohibited on Sunday, as well as other federal holidays
— Source: Oklahoma Constitution and statutes
- Yes 75%
- No 25%
16 total votes.