Proposed change to Oklahoma wine laws leaves much to be desired

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: April 5, 2012
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Let's see if we have this straight. If enough petition signatures are gathered, then Oklahomans could be asked in November to vote on whether to give the state's 15 largest counties the option of selling wine in grocery stores. Those stores would have to be at least 25,000 square feet, and corporations that obtain licenses for these wine sales couldn't operate more than six locations.

What kind of goofy plan is that?

The group pushing to change Oklahoma's liquor statutes, Oklahomans for Modern Laws, said at the beginning its goal was to get wine and something other than 3.2-strength beer sold in grocery and convenience stores. We were among those who liked the idea of letting voters decide if they wanted to update our laws by amending the constitution.

But language in a petition submitted this week makes no mention of strong beer, cuts convenience stores out completely and seeks to have the changes pertain only to the 15 counties with at least 50,000 residents. Why shouldn't folks in the other 62 counties have the opportunity to decide if they want these changes where they live?

If approved, this proposal would benefit big box stores and larger grocery stores. Some convenience store representatives are understandably riled about their industry being carved out. And package store owners aren't thrilled, either, because they wouldn't be given more latitude to sell nonalcoholic items such as snacks.

Brian Howe, director of Oklahomans for Modern Laws, says this was as far as the group felt it could go at this time if it hoped to succeed. But what are the chances of ever going back for more if this passes? Better to have kept the original goal of wine and strong beer in grocery and convenience stores, and made it county-option like liquor by the drink, which makes no provision for the size of counties, instead of this hodgepodge.


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