Task force explores changing Oklahoma liquor laws

A task force examining the possibility of allowing Oklahoma grocery stores to sell high-point beer and wine (liquor greater than 3.2 percent) held its first meeting at the state capital on Monday.

Part of the job of the 21-member task force is to identify what it would take to change the state's current liquor laws.

"It's a very complex issue. There's probably a lot of laws that will have to be changed to implement this if in fact the committee decides they want to move forward," said State Rep. Ron Peters (R-Tulsa) who serves as co-chair of the task force.

Right now, many liquor laws are written into the state's constitution. Changing it requires a vote of the people.

"Our task is to bring all sides to the table, see if we can get an agreement that we can move forward on, because if we can't get an agreement, we probably won't be able to move forward on the issue," said Peters.

Proponents said changing the state's liquor laws will bring more retailers to Oklahoma, giving the state an economic boost.

But opponents believe it will hurt small business owners.

Rob Cooper is the owner of Harvard Liquor Store in Tulsa.

Cooper believes allowing high-point beer and wine to be sold in grocers would hurt the local economy.

"All liquor stores in Oklahoma are owned and operated by people who live in Oklahoma," explained Cooper. "It will take money out of the local economy if it goes into the national chain."

Cooper said it could impact sales at his business by more than one-third.

"Wine and beer is anywhere from 30, 35 to 40 percent of my business," said Cooper. "It could affect it considerably."

Cooper also said he is concerned about the future of his three employees should the current laws be revised.

"If I have less business then I'll have to have less employees because I'll have to cut back somewhere," said Cooper.

Peters said the task force has until Feb. 1st to submit a report to legislative leaders.

The task force hopes it can find a compromise between all sides.

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