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New Effort To Change Oklahoma Liquor Laws

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Changes could be coming for Oklahoma beer drinkers. Changes could be coming for Oklahoma beer drinkers.

Changes could be coming for Oklahoma beer drinkers. They may be able to get cold, stronger beer from grocery and convenience stores by next year if a proposal put out by the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma goes through.

The proposal, which the RLAO’s President characterized as an agreement with liquor retailers across the state, goes along with the current state Senate Bill 383 put forward last session by Sen. Stephanie Bice (R- Oklahoma City).

In the proposal, RLAO officials are calling for beer up to 6 percent to be sold in refrigerators in stores across the state. Currently, only liquor stores are allowed to sell alcohol above 3.2 percent alcohol by volume, according to the Oklahoma Constitution.

Retailers said they surveyed consumers and learned there was a desire for more options and convenience when it came to where consumers could buy alcohol and what kinds were available. 

“The retail package stores of Oklahoma are really taking the consumer desires into account of wanting convenience but also taking their concerns in account of limiting access so bad things don't happen as a result of that increased convenience,” RLAO President Bryan Kerr said.

They also want to allow for things like tastings in stores liquor, allowing accompanied children in liquor stores and sales on holidays like the Fourth of July. But not every business owner is so sure. Some smaller businesses are afraid they will be outmatched by the bigger retailers and may not have the space or budget for refrigerated alcohol.

“The electricity those refrigerators are going to pull, that means everybody's prices are going to go up on your wine, your liquor and your beer. A lot of people aren't going to like that,” said Stacie Carra. Carra manages Richard’s Liquor in Del City. Kerr said the refrigeration is only an n option for business owners and would not be mandatory.

Any changes are still a long way off.  Voters would have to amend the state's constitution in November 2016, if SB383 passes the legislature. Bice said she was “very confident” it would be up for a vote come the election.

There are concerns surrounding the change. Some have say an outcome of not having chilled beer and only selling lower ABV alcohol was to cut down on drunk driving and teen drinking. Kerr said he hasn’t seen statistics supporting that argument and called some of the laws pertaining to alcohol restrictions “silly”

When asked if she has heard opposition from law enforcement on SB383, she said not yet. But added there have been concerns raised among advocates against substance abuse, an issue the state of Oklahoma struggles with compared to the rest of the United States.

There are still portions of the proposal that need to be worked out, according to Kerr. Sales for wine could differ from beer sales and there are ongoing talks about how licenses can be issued and bought statewide, he said.

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