With State Question 792 passing last November, communities across the state have began preparing changed that will allow grocery and convenience stores to sell wine and high-point beer starting in October 2018.
"Alcohol modernization will bring increased business, tourism and sales taxes to Oklahoma cities and counties," said Oklahoma Beer Alliance President Lisette Barnes. "We can expect to see businesses and consumers continue to push for modern laws that lift any additional restrictions and provide more choices for consumers, which all spells increased economic growth for Oklahoma."
SQ 792 will allow grocery and convenience stores to sell wine and high-point beer, and also allow liquor stores to sell refrigerated beer and alcohol accessories. The measure also allows multiple beer and wine stores to be owned by one corporation.
"What everyone wants to happen is (for) businesses to have a chance to prepare for this in the right way and (that) it’s implemented in the right way so consumers have the least amount of disruption in their ability to get all the beer and wine they want. From a business standpoint, we want to make sure we do it as right as well too," Barnes said.
Right now, two bordering counties to Garfield County — Alfalfa and Major counties — still are dry counties. Unless they hold special elections in the next year to vote for on-premise consumption, Barnes said Garfield County could see an influx of people coming in to buy alcohol.
As for the alcohol modernization taking effect next year, Barnes said it will allow for businesses to "respond to consumer demand, help keep business in the area, and communities will benefit from increased sales tax funds," in addition to communities seeing increased beer tourism. She said more craft beers have started working their way into the state, too.
"We’ve already seen a boom in breweries starting up and expanding their businesses and opening up tap rooms, which I think is exciting for our consumers, but also when we have people visit the state I think that they kind of see us in a different way, that we’re moving forward with our modernization," Barnes said.
She said much of the preparation includes distributors gearing up for an expanded market, grocery stores needing to make space for the high-point beer and wine, and liquor shops installing refrigeration for their beer and wine.
Mike Griffin, owner of The Wine Press in Enid, said SQ 792 will definitely have an impact on stores like his.
He said they could possibly see a decrease in sales of wine and high-point beer, since grocery and convenience stores will be able to start selling them.
"If you throw in more competition, like selling wine, obviously it's diluting the market there even more," Griffin said.
The Wine Press is starting to take steps to prepare for next October when SQ 792 takes effect. Griffin said some steps will include refrigerating their beer to stay competitive on the beer side. They're making plans to put in a beer cave and an area to refrigerate some wine.
Despite stores being able to start selling both wine and high-point beers, Griffin said shops like his offer some things that grocery stores still won't be able to.
"What we'll be able to offer is more one-stop shop, where you can buy liquor and beer (and some win) that's above the point they're allowed to sell," Griffin said. "Then, of course, we offer a larger beer selection than most of those stores because we'll carry all the craft beers ... They'll (grocery stores) probably offer the same beers they sell right now, just at a high-point version, and we sell 450 different kinds of beer."