A state senate panel passed a measure that could lead to a public vote on alcohol sales.
Backers say SJR68 would modernize state laws by allowing the sale of strong beer and wine in convenience stores and supermarkets.
“What this bill seeks to do is it seeks to send a vote to the people the option fopr them to modernize alcohol laws to be more in congruence with other states,” Senator Clark Jolley (R) Edmond said.
But it may not be that simple. A few dozen people came out to oppose the bill. They say it could hurt small mom and pop liquor stores.
Senator Jolley disagrees.
“I believe in the free market on that” Jolley said, “And I believe that we should allow for them to be able to compete.”
Large beer distributor Anheuser-Busch is also against the bill because of language that means a change in the two tier system. It would essentially ban common ownership between manufacturers, wholesale and retail operations in the state and require a three tier system where a third party distributor would be involved. Anheuser Bush says that will force their distributorship out of the state and cost jobs.
“Well, we have 700 employees here in the state between our Tulsa and Oklahoma City distributorships,” said Eric James with Anheuser-Busch. “So I can tell you hundreds will be impacted.”
Jolley insists that hasn't happened in other states that have passed similar legislation.
“Not one large brewer has shed any jobs. There’s nothing here that is designed to cause a loss of jobs,” said Jolley.