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Judge denies request to keep alcohol reform measure off November ballot

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OKLAHOMA - An attempt to keep alcohol reform off the ballot fails in court.

Monday, a judge ruled Oklahomans will vote in November on whether to allow strong beer and wine in grocery and convenience stores.

Opponents of the bill said liquor stores saturate the market already and adding grocery and convenience stores to the mix will create unfair competition.

Oklahoma’s liquor laws haven’t changed in nearly six decades.

“Low point beer” is actually in our state constitution.

“We’re actually one of only five states left selling 3.2 beer, and it’s really time to move to a single strength system,” said Sen. Stephanie Bice.

Bice authored the bill that put state question 792 on the ballot.

If it passes, Oklahomans can buy strong beer and wine seven days a week in grocery and convenience stores.

“What we’re concerned about is unfair competition, and what SQ792 does is it gives grocery stores and convenience stores and drugstores an unfair advantage in the marketplace. It allows them to sell at many more locations, many more hours and has looser restrictions that what we suffer in the retail liquor business,” said Retail Liquor Association President Bryan Kerr.

The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma asked a judge to keep the state question off the ballot, claiming it would treat their stores less favorably.

Monday, Judge Aletia Timmons said she has a problem with limiting competition and struck down that request.

“You keep hearing over and over the liquor store’s association is talking about Walmart and QT and big business, but I think they’re forgetting that there are several thousand small, independent grocery and convenience stores across Oklahoma that are actually really excited to see this legislation pass,” Bice said.

Opponents said Oklahoma is flooded with business that sell strong beer and wine already: one liquor store for every 5,800 people.

“That’s not 5800 drinkers. That’s men, women and children, so that’s plenty of competition here in the liquor store business in Oklahoma,” Kerr said.

The judge did say she had some concerns about the constitutionality of the measure and will take that up at a later date, possibly even after the election.