Oklahoma Voters Will Decide On Wine, Stronger Beer In Convenience And Grocery Stores

POCOLA (KFSM) -- This election voters in Oklahoma will decide whether they want to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell wine and stronger beer.

The manager of Grand Slam Convenience Store in Pocola said he is used to hearing complaints about the beer they sell.

“They say things like it's watered down,” Arfan Chaudhry said. “There's real beer in Texas. There's real beer in Arkansas. You guys don't have real beer.”

Right now stores like Grand Slam can only sell beverages with no more than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight (4 percent by volume), but those behind State Question 792 hope voters will change that law.

If State Question 792 passes, it would allow grocery and convenience stores to sell wine and beer that’s not above 8.99 percent alcohol by October 2018.

“I'd be better for a lot of customers,” Chaudhry said.

Bryan Kerr owns a liquor store in Moore, Oklahoma. He is also president of the state’s Retail Liquor Association. Kerr said he’s all about modernizing the state’s liquor laws, but said 792 has a hidden provision, which would lead to higher prices, less selection and would put 300 local liquor stores out of business.

“Many of them are just businesses that make enough money to keep their business open and pay their bills, so we can't raise the kind of money to mount a campaign like the SQ 792 folks, which are backed by Walmart,” Kerr said.

A group of liquor store owners, including Kerr, were behind State Question 791, which would’ve prohibited grocery stores from selling wine if there was a liquor store within 500 feet, but they did not get enough signatures in time for it to be on the November ballot.

“I have always been in favor of allowing refrigeration of strong beer and wine in our stores,” Kerr said. “I’ve always been in favor of allowing grocery stores and convenience stores to compete with strong beer and getting rid of the 3.2 designation that they’ve been saddled with for so many years. I just wanted that done in a fair and competitive way, so local liquor stores could survive against some of the giant super-centers, some of the chain stores, who have an inherent advantage.”

Early voting in Oklahoma starts Nov. 3 and goes through Nov. 5. Election Day is Nov. 8.