Ye ole State of Oklahoma will implement some embarrassing changes to its liquor laws starting today. Many things are changing, but in the beer sector: Customers can finally buy brewskis with an alcohol content up to 8.99 percent, which is still arbitrarily low, at grocery stores and gas stations, and they can also now buy high ABV beer cold from a liquor store. But maybe the biggest change for Sooner State craft brewers is that Oklahoma is moving away from its burdensome four-tier system which includes the: 1) beer maker, 2) broker, 3) distributor and 4) retailer. A broker?
Oklahoma has historically mandated a four-tier system for beer greater than 4 percent ABV (3.2 percent by weight). Anything over that, brewers were required to sell to brokers, who in turn sold to distributors. Under the new system, the broker will merge into the importer/distributor category. Other distribution hurdles will be eliminated as well. Brewers will have more choices for a distributor and more product visibility. From Tulsa World:
For the average consumer, nothing changes — in theory.
But the new law will give breweries a choice of which distributor they want to use. For the consumer, it means the product is taken care of because a brewery could move to a different distribution company if they aren’t happy. Breweries will also know what stores their products are going to be in and how long they have been sitting there. Under the current system, they have no idea where their product is unless they make phone calls or visit a liquor store.
These much need changes are all possible because of the Oklahoma Regulations Governing the Sale of Wine and Beer Amendment, which most folks just call State Question 792. It was on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Oklahoma as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, and it was approved (overwhelmingly).
But never fear: Oklahoma is still making beer sales needlessly difficult. From the Shawnee News-Star:
Right now the law states that liquor stores can sell alcoholic beverages between the hours of 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. any day but Sunday — and at room temperature. The new law will okay the purchase of refrigerated alcohol in liquor stores Monday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and midnight. Grocers and convenience store owners now can sell cold low-point (3.2 percent or less) beer every day between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. the next morning.
Previously, grocery stores and gas stations could only sell beer up to 4 percent ABV (3.2 percent by weight). With the correct licensing, those establishments will now be able to sell beer up to 8.99 percent ABV and wine up to 15 percent. If you want anything stronger, you will need to head to the liquor store. These laws are a step in the right direction, but frankly, more change is needed.