Bottoms up, big cheers: Some local businesses thrive on the new alcohol laws, others are feeling the pinch

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OKLAHOMA CITY - New alcohol laws are generating millions of dollars in revenue for the state, but while Oklahoma decided to give it a shot, trouble may be brewing for some local businesses.

"Being able to get wine and beer and whatever we need and not have to make an extra stop is really nice,” Allie Weaver said.

Convenience is key for this Homeland shopper buying beer for a family event.

While she's used to the laws being from Texas, she's excited she can buy high-point beer and wine at grocery stores in her new home state.

State Question 792 passed in 2016 and went into effect last October. Since then, almost 3,600 convenience, drug, and grocery stores have obtained beer licenses, according to the ABLE Commission. 1,800 of those now also sell wine.

“Overall for our brewery, it's been really positive. We're up about 30% in grocery, convenience and liquor stores versus before the law,” said Sean Mossman, who is with Coop Ale Works and is the treasurer of the Oklahoma Craft Brewers Association.

Mossman says because of the new alcohol laws, they've almost doubled the number of stores that sell their beer. He said this is a great step but believes there’s an even bigger growth opportunity. He says craft beer makes up 12% of beer sold nationally, but it's just 3.5% of all beer sold in Oklahoma.

“Craft beer as a category in Oklahoma was really suppressed because of the negative laws and now that the new laws have kind of freed up the channels for beer to go into, we've seen some significant growth,” Mossman said.

There has been a growth in sales and the number of breweries popping up around the state.  Currently, there are 51 breweries open for business, and eight of those opened within the last year.

While breweries are bubbling up, the Oklahoma Retail Liquor Association says its stores are fizzling out.

“There's several stores that have gone out of business. There's stores that have lost employees because they no longer have the business they used to have, and there are stores that are barely hanging on,” Bryan Kerr, owner of Moore Liquor and president of the Oklahoma Retail Liquor Association, said.

However, the numbers tell a different story.

In the year before the law went into effect, 35 liquor stores closed. In the year since the law went into effect, only 20 have closed statewide.

It's hard to say why, but Kerr believes it's because some liquor store owners saw the writing on the wall after the state question was passed in 2016. That was the case for his wife who closed her store before the law took effect.

“I don't think we'll ever see the kind of business we had in the past but then again I'm happy to be here in Moore and happy to have the customers I have,” Kerr said.

Mossman said he hates to see any liquor store close but is glad it’s not worse.

“I’m really surprised it hasn’t happened as much as people thought it would and I’m excited about that and I’m happy that some of those friends who helped us create this business over the years.”

With the change in the liquor laws, liquor stores are now allowed to sell non-alcoholic products. Kerr says while that has helped his business, it has not made up for what he has lost at the store.

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