Oklahoma beer law changes celebrated at State Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma's laws have changed when it comes to alcohol.

On Monday, many residents headed to grocery and convenience stores to purchase full-strength beer and wine.

At the Oklahoma State Capitol, state beer industry members gathered to celebrate those changes. Some of them had to rein in their excitement as the Budweiser Clydesdales were on hand.

"When I filed the original legislation in 2015 for cold beer, I never anticipated we would end up here, but it's an exciting day," said Sen. Stephanie Bice, (R) Dist. 22.

Oklahomans voted to change the laws in 2016, but Lisette Barnes, president of the Oklahoma Beer Alliance, says the two years in between then and now were necessary.

"I think Oklahomans were ready but us - we had to get a few things in line to make that happen," said Barnes.

Barnes says the Legislature had to make some tweaks to liquor laws, and the ABLE Commission had to put new rules in place. On the business side of things, warehouses had to be expanded, along with the number of trucks and employees.

"It was just overwhelming for the ABLE Commission with all the retailers getting new licenses, all the employees have to be licensed; so we're talking 80,000 licenses they had to issue, so it was a whole lot of work for them," she said.

But it's not just about the beer.

"The state has no dry counties now - because all 16 counties voted to go wet," Barnes said.

Now, all of Oklahoma's 77 counties are permitted to serve alcohol.

Voters also decided that wine and strong-point beer can be sold in grocery stores, and liquor stores are no longer limited in what they can sell. Liquor stores are now permitted to sell items other than alcohol as long as the sale of those items doesn't make up more than 20 percent of their monthly profit.

This is the biggest change in alcohol laws since Oklahomans voted overwhelmingly to repeal prohibition in 1959.

"Today has been 59 years in the making and we are so glad we did not hit 60," said Jason Hall, of Anheuser-Busch Sales of Oklahoma.

Liquor, however, cannot be sold in grocery stores and gas stations. You still have to go to the liquor store for that.

The Budweiser Clydesdales will continue to make appearances across the metro throughout the rest of the week.