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Numerous problems with placing wine in grocery stores

Oklahoman Published: July 11, 2012

The misconceptions about selling wine in Oklahoma grocery stores are numerous. When alcohol enters the state, it comes to brokers from wineries, gets sent to wholesalers and is then distributed to restaurants/retailers. Oklahoma has eight wholesalers and 51 brokers but no monopolies. Our laws were written to protect small businesses from chains. New York's wine laws are similar.

Should a proposal to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores become law, there still would be no Sunday or after-9 p.m. sales, no strong beer and no refrigeration. The reason some states have cheaper prices is that chains are able to negotiate nationally with mega-wineries for volume pricing. Oklahoma law prevents this, to protect small businesses. Only one individual and spouse are allowed to hold a license for a liquor store in Oklahoma. They aren't allowed to sell goods other than alcohol. People under 21 aren't allowed in the store.

The proposed bill would allow grocers to do just that while denying retailers from competing. By saying you want wine in grocery stores, you're helping chains drive money out of Oklahoma. When Texas passed similar legislation in the 1960s, 42 percent of individually owned stores closed within 18 months. Grocery store wine selections are deplorable and are largely mass-produced wines.

We talk about keeping it local, but we aren't by buying bulk wines made by mega-wineries. We're certainly not supporting keeping it local by putting Oklahomans out of work.

Clayton Bahr, Oklahoma City

Bahr works for the brokerage firm of Putnam Wines of Oklahoma City.