OK Supreme Court hears wine in grocery stores debate

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OKLAHOMA CITY — A controversial fight to allow Oklahoma grocery stores to sell wine goes before the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

The high court heard oral arguments on the issue Thursday morning.

Supporters of the change are pushing for a statewide vote this November.

“This is about a soccer mom, who goes to the grocery store with her kids to buy groceries, being able to buy a bottle of wine that goes with those groceries,” said attorney Lee Slater.

Slater argued in support of the change in front of the state Supreme Court. Anti-addition groups spoke against it.

“Increasing alcohol outlets increases the abuse of alcohol and its bad effects, violence and crimes,” said Jim Priest.

Managers at Byron’s, a large liquor retailer, don’t oppose wine in grocery stores, even though it could have some pitfalls.

“We are not opposed to the idea, however, it will destroy the industry as we know it,” said Debbie Harrigan.

Specifically, higher wholesale prices could mean higher prices for customers. There’s also the problem of enforcement.

“The ABLE commission is already understaffed, so adding 2000 more outlets means they’ll have to hire more people,” said Harrigan.

“It will hurt small mom and pop liquor stores,” said customer Jim Hill.

At the same time, Jim agrees more accessible wine means greater convenience for customers, and not everyone believes the law will actually drive small liquor stores out of business.

“Liquor stores will still have the exclusive rights to sell hard liquor like whiskey and strong beer,” said Slater.

The wine sales would have some restrictions. It would only apply to 15 Oklahoma counties with populations over 50 thousand, and only larger superstores with at least 25 thousand square feet of space would be granted licenses.

There’s no word when the Supreme Court will issue their ruling, but it’ll have to be quick because supporters still have to collect more than 150 thousand signatures to get the issue put on the ballot.

Right now more than 30 states allow wine to be sold in grocery stores.