Strong Beer, Wines Sales for OK C-Stores Shelved

Oklahoma state senator's bill would create task force to study issue

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A bill that would allow Oklahoma grocery and convenience stores to sell strong beer and wine is being put on hold while a task force studies the issue, said the Associated Press. A bill by State Senator Clark Jolley (R) would create a 13-member task force that would help draft a proposal to be presented to the legislature next year.

The sale of strong beer and wine in grocery and c-stores is supported by chambers of commerce and consumer groups that say Oklahoma's alcohol laws are antiquated. Opponents include alcohol retailers and distributors who say their [image-nocss] business models depend on existing state alcohol laws.

Current law allows only low-point beer to be sold in grocery and c-stores. Only liquor stores are allowed retail sales of strong beer or wine, and the products cannot be refrigerated.

"Obviously, this is a huge issue. It's not something that is quite so simple as to be able to throw it all on one page," Jolley told The Oklahoman.

He said the task force was requested by State Senator Dan Newberry (R), chairman of the Senate Business & Commerce Committee, which would have to hear most bills relating to alcohol law changes.

Newberry said all other bills proposing major changes to alcohol laws have been put on hold.

"My opinion is its better to aim then shoot, rather than shoot and aim later," he told the newspaper. "Everybody needs to understand what they're doing first."

Newberry said he has not decided whether he supports allowing strong beer and wine in grocery and c-stores.

The task force would include alcohol retailers and distributors, Jolley said.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that maybe for once since this whole thing has started that maybe the other side will finally sit down and talk to us as an industry," J.P. Richard, president of the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma, told the paper.

Richard said he would like to serve on the task force. "I'm going to call it exactly as I see it. I'm not going to be very diplomatic about it," he said. "We're not going to go over lightly on this thing."

The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and other groups earlier this year organized preliminary discussions between various alcohol industry stakeholders about how to best proceed with allowing strong beer and wine to be sold in grocery and c-stores, said the report.

"This is exactly what we want to see happen, is the task force," Mark VanLandingham, vice president of government relations for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, told the Oklahoman. "It's going to be a tough deal to change...there are a lot of entrenched interests out there."