UPDATE: Pretty much as we posted this we learned that the Oklahoma Attorney General approved of the original reading. So, congrats Oklahoma craft brewers. We could just take this down, but why waste a good rant?
There isn’t another way to phrase this: Oklahoma craft brewers were just screwed by their regulators. In May, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin signed Senate Bill 424 into law that everybody on earth believed to read that Oklahoma brewers could now sell “high-point” beer (over 4 percent ABV) to patrons by the glass in their tap rooms.
Unfortunately, the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission (ABLE) is not from earth and does not understand our ways, so it is now asking for the attorney general’s guidance in interpreting the law. The language may not line up with the intent, they say.
Commissioner Director Keith Burt was quoted saying “It doesn’t spell out you can have on-premise consumption. We have to abide by the law. So we’re asking for the Attorney General to give his guidance. I hope it goes [the brewers’] way.”
And who knows, maybe they are right, because all laws are written in such a way to be intentionally vague, obtuse and complicated. But remember that this bill was signed in May. When did the commission step in and ask for this guidance? Right before the law was going into effect this Friday. So, while everyone is buffing their monocles to go over the fine print once more, whilst dipping scones into their midday teas, a bunch of local businesses are now left hanging, after working for months to prepare for what everyone was told was the beginning of a new era. Strategies were devised. Marketing efforts made. Some had parties planned — and who wants to have a party with 4 percent ABV beer?
Just look at these depressing quotes from Oklahoma brewers in this article from KOCO, the Channel 4 affiliate in Oklahoma City:
“The tap room is a huge part of our business model, especially at the start for us,” said Joel Irby, who moved back to Oklahoma to start Stonecloud Brewing Company. “Finding out last night was just pretty devastating especially because we’ve already committed to a lot of the investment in the business.”
“The success we’re having in out-of-state markets is directly tied to a functional tap room,” said Sean Mossman of Coop Ale Works, the state’s largest craft brewery. “The point is that we want people to come to Oklahoma City to have a great experience but to also create commerce for Oklahomans back in their home states when they go back by trying one of the strong-point beers here.”
If you are perhaps on the fence as to just how impactful such a change in regulations could be, we urge to leaf through this comprehensive economic impact report specifically about the Oklahoma craft beer market.