Senate passes bills to modernize alcohol laws, boost business for local breweries

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OKLAHOMA - Two bills to change Oklahoma’s liquor laws passed the Senate Monday.

Supporters said the bills will bring Oklahoma’s alcohols laws in the 21st century.

“3.2 or what we consider low point beer is actually in our constitution if you can believe that. After prohibition, the legislature felt it was the right move in 1959 to write it into our constitution so, to get it out, it has to go to a vote of the people,” said Sen. Stephanie Bice.

Bice’s bill would allow voters to change the constitution to allow strong beer and wine to be sold in grocery stores.

It’s a change she said Oklahomans are calling for, but some in the liquor store business aren’t happy.

"I've spent money on everything in here. A clerk at Walmart or the guy at 7-Eleven, they aren't his products, so he isn't as concerned,” said Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma president Bryan Kerr.

“There’s a tremendous amount of economic development opportunities for the craft beer industry as well as the wine industry and, so, there’s opportunities for jobs, job growth and companies coming into Oklahoma,” Bice said.

Another bill that passed the Senate Monday is targeted at boosting business for local breweries.

It would allow them to sell their beer above 3.2 at their breweries, like in a tap room.

“It’s very difficult  for them to go into straight commercial production and get distribution without also being able to have a place where people can come in and test their product and kind of build a grassroots following,” said Rep. Cory Williams.

Both bills have one more hurdle on the House floor.

If the vote passes in November, folks still wouldn't be able to buy strong beer and wine at grocery stores until 2018 to allow lawmakers more time to tweak the new law.