“Very fearful,” Businesses prepare for new Oklahoma liquor laws

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EDMOND, Okla. - Kenny Baldridge never imagined conservative Oklahoma voters would approve sweeping changes to the state's antiquated liquor laws.

Ink is proof he never considered a plan B.

"If I have to go back into the job market, I might wish I had fewer tattoos on my arms," Baldridge said.

But, the virtual monopoly liquor stores have on selling wine and strong beer disappears next October.

"Very fearful," Baldridge said. "Just worried about losing a lot of business. I don't know what percentage I can lose and still stay open."

Fifty percent of Baldridge's sales are wine, 30 percent beer.

"We will rely on spirit sales to keep our doors open. We will rely on our knowledge," he said.

His shop and thousands more will need to adapt to a new competitive landscape. Baldrigde estimates the changes will cost him 40-$50,000 in refrigeration, inventory and staffing for extended store hours.

The ABLE Commission anticipates roughly 5,000 additional licenses.

Love's Country Stores was the first to apply to carry 6-point beer and wine in 76 Oklahoma convenience stores.

"October 1st, the statute kicked in that lets them to begin to put the coolers in, beer coolers, wine coolers," said ABLE attorney Steve Barker. "They can't chill until next October, but getting the stores ready."

In an effort to level the playing field, liquor stores can expand their inventory - soft drinks, ice, chips and dips.

"They don't know what they're going to carry. They are making those business decisions," Barker said. "We'd heard some say cigars exclusively. Some might do lottery tickets. Others don't want to mess with lottery tickets. Ice, cork screws, limes, all of it."

Baldridge doesn't know what his future holds. He's only got 11 month to fine tune his new business model and develop the plan B he never imagined.

"I'm investing in long sleeve shirts. I have lots," Balrdridge said. "I'll start wearing them if I need to, just in case."

Ready or not, there will soon be a new liquor law of the land, one that's more palatable to Oklahoma voters.

"We don't have a choice. We will be ready. It will get done," Barker said. "So far, so good I'd say."

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