I was not surprised when I read that the Legislature had defeated in committee the proposal to allow sales of wine and strong beer in grocery stores in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties (Commentary, Kurt Hochenauer, “OKC’s drunken elephant,” Feb. 24, 2010, Gazette), but the reason this proposal was defeated was somewhat of a surprise, and not for the usual reasons.
Measures such as these are usually voted down by rural legislators on religious and moral grounds, but this time the reason they gave had nothing to do with those areas, but with where the sales would be permitted. Legislators from rural areas of Oklahoma voted against the bill because their local grocery stores and liquor stores feared a loss of revenue and sales tax because people would buy their wine and beer in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties instead of at home. This really makes sense: Why should we only be allowed to buy wine and beer in grocery stores in the big cities?
Wineries are located in rural Oklahoma, so shouldn’t the people living in those areas be allowed to purchase their products at their local stores rather than having to go to Oklahoma City or Tulsa or a liquor store? You can drive an hour in Oklahoma to any of our surrounding states and buy strong beer or wine either in a grocery store, convenience store or a bottle of it in any bar, so why should you have to go to Oklahoma City or Tulsa to buy it in a grocery store? Or hot in a liquor store? Like nearly everyone else in Oklahoma, I long for the day when I can go to a Whole Foods, Costco or one of the other really nice chains that refuse to locate here.
What I do not understand is why, after the rejection of the committee, the authors did not amend the bill to apply to all of Oklahoma and not just the two biggest cities.
Is it not possible to do that? I would really like to know, or suggest that someone start an initiative petition. It seems that is the only real way to get something done in this ridiculous state.