Sen. Andrew Rice's Senate Bill 2205 was defeated several weeks ago for good, sound economic reasons. His argument was that passage would bring Oklahoma liquor laws out of the Dark Ages and deliver into our hands Whole Foods and other upscale grocers. Texas and Colorado were cited as the models of modernity since they have the ability to sell wine and strong beer, and that if we follow that path we will experience the same.
Colorado does indeed have more than a dozen Whole Foods and many other upscale food vendors. However, the inconvenient truth is not one of them sells wine or strong beer-only; Colorado package liquor stores can do that.
Texas passed laws a number of years ago allowing wine and strong beer sales in grocery stores under pressure to "modernize Texas liquor laws." The result was that within 18 months, 40 percent of Texas package store retailers went out of business, wine and beer selection went down (a trend that continues today) and liquor prices went up because the package stores had to rely on increased margins on the remaining spirit and reduced beer and wine products available to them.
Oklahoma retailers offer more wine and strong beer than any grocery or liquor store in Texas. The best Whole Foods in Austin offered maybe 400 wine items and less beer. Go to Byron's Liquor Warehouse and Poncho's Liquortown in Oklahoma City, Spirit Shop and Corkscrew Wine & Spirits in Norman or Edmond Wine Shop, and your wine choices alone are from 3,000 to 4,000 and beer/malt choices range from 500 to 1,100. And while you're there, check on the price of a 1.75 liter of Crown Royal" $38 to $40 in OKC/Tulsa and $56 to $60 in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Another result was that the law enforcement of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Control over the alcohol industry was greatly diminished because of political pressure coming from big-box retailers, who didn't want those pesky laws and enforcement rules concerning sales to minors to apply to their 18-yearold clerks. Never mind that one day wine and strong beer are considered controlled alcoholic products and the next it's just wine and beer that any young unlicensed clerk under 21 can sell. Texas package stores now have another fight on their hands because Wal-Mart and other bigbox retailers, not satisfied with just wine and beer, are now attempting to take the liquor. If it can happen in Texas, it can happen here!
Yes, SB 2205 was defeated for good, sound economic reasons!
Richard is president of the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma.