A current law states you must live in the state of Oklahoma for 10 straight years in order to own a liquor store. Every store you see on every other corner is owned by Oklahomans. If you change the laws and allow Whole Foods Market, headquartered in Texas, and Walmart, based in Arkansas, to sell the liquor, all of that revenue that currently stays in Oklahoma would leave the state. I would hope my fellow Oklahomans, local politicians along with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber would want to support other Oklahoma businesses and not big-box retailers from our competing states.
The Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission, which oversees the liquor laws in our state, is not ready for this change. They would have to hire more employees and increase their budget. Our local government is trying to cut just about every budget. Try to get them to vote for an increase in the budget that oversees liquor sales. That would be a difficult “yes” vote for any politician. The state would end up with more alcohol exposure and not enough people to monitor it; this is a dangerous combination.
Another current law says you can’t sell strong beer, wine or liquor within 300 feet of a school or church. How would this affect grocery stores and pharmacies within 300 feet of a church or a school? This law would also have to change. Most religious groups in our state don’t want alcohol to be on the grocery aisles, but they really don’t want it to be sold across the street from their child’s middle school. I tend to agree.
What other current laws would need to change? You can only own one liquor store; you can only sell liquor in your store; you can’t refrigerate anything in your store; and you have to buy the liquor from an approved wholesaler.
This issue is more complicated than just changing one law. The reality is if you allowed these big-box retailers to sell alcohol, they will move in, put local competition out of business and soon down the road, the consumer will end up with less selection and higher prices. Walmart has made a living doing this is most towns across America.
If you think Oklahoma is stuck with laws made up during the Land Run, here are a few other states that have a similar system: New York, Kansas, Massachusetts, Colorado, Delaware and Virginia.
A change in the law would essentially close hundreds of Oklahoma businesses, put hundreds more out of work and negatively impact selection and price, just as it’s done in Texas. This is simply not the right thing to do and a very high price to pay for convenience.
Bishop, an Edmond resident, owns the Grape, Wine and Spirits, a specialty wine, liquor and beer store on the north side of Oklahoma City.