Cold beer

SQ 792 would allow convenience stores, grocery stores and liquor stores to sell cold strong beer and wine. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World file

Oklahomans loosened alcohol laws Tuesday, allowing convenience stores and grocery stores to sell strong beer and wine and liquor stores to have up to two locations.

With the passage of State Question 792,  the article of the Oklahoma constitution governing alcohol will be repealed and replaced with a new section. The new section would take effect Oct. 1, 2018. 

SQ 792 changes the state constitution to eliminate the distinction between 3.2 and "strong" beer, to allow the sale of wine and all beer in grocery and convenience stores and to allow liquor stores to sell cold beer and items that do not contain alcohol.

The amendment also includes many detailed changes in the way alcoholic beverages are manufactured, distributed and sold in Oklahoma.

Liquor stores will be allowed to sell things other than alcohol as long as it doesn't comprise more than 20 percent of their sales and would be allowed to refrigerate beer and wine.

Advocates of the measure, Yes on 792, touted the issue as modernizing state laws to keep pace with other states and empowering local businesses.

State Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, who helped write the measure, said in an interview with the World that it's a tremendous victory for Oklahoma. She praised local chambers of commerce, including the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce and Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.

She said Tulsa's Young Professionals had been wonderful in their support from the very beginning.

"It's a great day in Oklahoma," she said, putting the passage on par with when alcohol became legal in the state.

Bryan Kerr of the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma, the group of liquor stores that opposed the measure, said, "Time will tell if SQ792 was a step in the right direction or not."

He added that the Retail Liquor Association "will work with legislature and the courts to help improve upon what voted in this evening."

Kerr said the group plans to challenge the constitutionality of the measure on 14th Amendment grounds. 

Another advocate of the measure was ecstatic Tuesday evening.

Susan Boehrer, president of the Oklahoma Grape Industry Council and co-owner of Redbud Farm and Vineyard in Goldsby, said there were 5,000 acres of grapes at statehood and now there are 479.

"It's going to bring back our industry. It's going to put people to work," said Boehrer, saying the day will be a day total celebration for the state of Oklahoma. 

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