The history behind Oklahoma's battle with the bottle

Plain View Winery, Summerside Vineyards and Indian Creek Village wines line a shelf at Buck's Party Shop Tuesday, November 10, 2015. Changes in Oklahoma's alcohol law are moving forward. (Bonnie Vculek / Enid News & Eagle)

Oklahoma’s intoxicating liquor laws have not seen an overhaul since 1959.

Oklahoma and Indian territories had separate liquor laws. Oklahoma Territory allowed the sale of alcohol but Indian Territory did not due to federal law.

When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, Oklahomans adopted Prohibition, the absence of alcohol, to be in the state’s constitution, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.

More than 10 years later, Oklahoma was the 18th state to ratify the 18th Amendment to the federal Constitution in 1919.

The 18th Amendment prohibited the manufacture, transportation and sale of any intoxicating liquor. The time of speakeasies and back-door dealings soon began and according to the Historical Society, Oklahoma’s amendment did not offer stronger enforcement of Prohibition laws.

In the midst of the Great Depression, states began gathering to repeal the 18th Amendment.

According to the Oklahoma Historical So­­ciety, Oklahoma did not act fast enough, and in 1933, Utah was the final vote needed to ratify the 21st Amendment, which ended Prohibition and repealed the 18th Amendment.

Also in 1933, Ok­­lahoma proposed the approval on the sale of beer. Thirty states had approved beer sales and in the summer of 1933, Oklahoma was No. 31, according to the Oklahoma Historical So­­ciety.

Only 20 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties voted against the measure, according to the society. Arguments for the measure were revenue — a way to increase the state’s revenue during the Great Depression, according to the society.

According to Oklahoma State Court Network, Oklahoma began defining low-point beer and intoxicating liquors in 1947.

More than 20 years later, in 1959, Oklahoma administered a “local option.”

A local option would allow voters to determine whether to prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages at the state or county level, according to a summer 2012 Oklahoma City University Law Review.

The measure failed.

On April 7, 1959, the legislature voted on House Bill 825, which repealed prohibition and created the Alcohol Control Board, now know as the Alcohol Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission.

Enter the Alcohol Beverage Law Enforcement Commission. It was not until 1985 that Oklahoma allowed liquor-by-the-drink sales with the signing of House Bill 1118.

“Previously it was bottle clubs,” said Brent Fairchild, an ABLE Captain. “You brought your bottle, you paid a membership fee for the club, they labeled the bottle with your name and when you wanted a drink, the sold it to you from your bottle. It was that way until 1984.”

Now, counties vote to sell liquor by the drink. Some counties are dry, some are wet.

React to this story:


Recommended for you