The mall at Christmastime feels festive — white lights dangling from the ceiling, ribbon-wrapped garland draped through the halls and holiday music piped in to the crowds.
And seasonal kiosks, selling everything from toys and calendars to scarves and ornaments, are set up in every available space, like at a trade show.
That's why two local wineries say they should be able to conduct business at the mall during the holidays, because under state law, Oklahoma wineries are allowed to sell wine at “festivals and trade shows.” One of the wineries, Urban Wineworks, had its kiosk set up for several weeks at Penn Square Mall this year before receiving a letter from the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission, urging them to shut it down.
“People probably were festive. I'm not sure that means it's a festival,” ABLE Commission Director Keith Burt said.
The issue of whether a shopping mall during the holidays qualifies as a festival or trade show has been a gray area in Oklahoma law for years. Summerside Vineyards and Winery in Vinita has spent several Christmases at Penn Square Mall without issue — and both customers and mall management liked working with them.
Mis Gaston, a spokeswoman for Penn Square Mall, said it's the mall's business to lease space and they leave it up to individual retailers to ensure they have the correct licensing and permits to operate.
Two years ago, Summerside was issued a citation for operating at the mall. But the ABLE Commission dismissed the complaint without prejudice, in the hopes the Legislature would define “festival and trade show,” said John Maisch, attorney for the commission. They didn't.
So Summerside decided to try again. The day before they planned to set up at Penn Square Mall, ABLE told them if they did, the agency wouldn't consider it legal, said Gary Butler, who owns the winery with his wife, Marsha.