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The wrath of grapes

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Regarding Jason's Reese's "A grape idea" (Commentary, Aug. 25, Gazette):

Much like John Steinbeck's tale of Depression-era Oklahoma, allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores would inevitably lead to a similar exodus of much-needed resources. The fact is that Oklahoma has laws that are very favorable to not only wholesalers and retailers but also consumers.  

The wholesalers of this state are required to sell to everyone at the same price and at a price equal to or lower than the lowest price of any state bordering Oklahoma. This system keeps prices down as the average markup for spirits and wine in the state is 8 percent to 22 percent as opposed to a minimum of 25 percent in franchise states like Texas. A franchise system would overturn this law and force wholesalers to make deals with chains, effectively minimizing the number of stores that could realistically compete and shifting-pricing decisions to the chains.

Compare the variety of products Oklahoma offers to a wine in grocery store state like Texas. It's because the decision on what to carry is made at the store, not at the corporate level. So allowing this would not only kill selection in the state, but the loss of wine sales to supermarket chains would close half of the package stores in the state. This isn't made up, it happened in Texas. If this law is changed, imagine dust bunnies rolling through the parking lots of abandoned package stores.

Would the employees of supermarkets be required to be 21 and licensed by the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission? Scratch $30 per employee every two years. Considering several thousand employees add up to quite a budget crunch, taxes and fees would increase, resulting in higher prices. Imagine all the jobs leaving the state.

Selling wine in grocery stores would be devastating to the economy of the state and would certainly hurt consumers more than help them. Wholesalers increasing prices to cover distribution, retailers increasing prices to make up the loss and markups being set at corporate headquarters outside are all price increases. If you want to pay more on average for a smaller selection of goods because you want to make one less stop on your way home, then support wine in grocery. If you like having a selection and having your money stay in the state, then fight this. The important thing is to make an informed decision.

"Mike O'Malley
Lawton

O'Malley is wine manager at Cache Road Liquor.

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