Watered-Down Beer Turns Into Watered-Down Reforms


We’ve written about weak beer laws before in this space—including calling for Utah to get rid of its 3.2-percent alcohol-by-weight cap that limited the strength of beers that could be sold by grocery stores in the state. Utah finally reformed the cap earlier this year, leaving Minnesota as the only state left in the country with a 3.2 law. But as R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle points out in a recent piece for Governing, the states that have repealed their 3.2 laws have simply replaced them with a slightly higher cap:

Today, 3.2 laws are mostly a thing of the past. This is because a handful of state legislatures -- including long-time holdouts Kansas, Oklahoma and Utah -- have cleared away their versions in recent years. Minnesota is now the last state to limit convenience stores and groceries to 3.2 beer. (Unlike some former variants of 3.2 laws in other states, Minnesota permits licensed liquor stores to sell stronger beer).

This string of modern reforms may seem to beer-lovers like cause for celebration, but the reality is that America's weak-beer wars are far from over. Not only does Minnesota still have its law on the books, but many of the states that did repeal their 3.2 laws merely replaced them with slightly less onerous versions.

For instance, while Kansas overturned its 3.2 law this year, it ended up only raising the permissible alcohol level for beer to 6 percent alcohol-by-volume. Because of the different units of measure -- the original 3.2 laws used alcohol-by-weight, whereas Kansas' new limit uses alcohol-by-volume -- the reform is less than meets the eye: A 6 percent ABV beer is actually only a 4.7 percent ABW brew, a disappointingly modest increase. Oklahoma did slightly better in raising its threshold to 8.99 percent ABV (around 7 percent ABW) while Utah was only able to muster a raise to 5 percent ABV (around 4 percent ABW).

The larger issue is that these new limits are still completely arbitrary and especially unsuited to the modern craft-beer era…

Read the rest here.

Oklahoma preps for freeing the drinks


In 3 weeks, a bevy of alcohol reforms will go into effect in Oklahoma, including allowing grocery stores to sell wine and higher-alcohol beer. According to OKCFox.com, stores are busy preparing for the big day:

We're just three weeks away from new liquor laws going into effect in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission (ABLE) is working overtime to get alcohol licenses to businesses across the state, as grocery stores and gas stations prepare to sell wine and high point beer.

Homeland grocery store on Classen and NW 18th has already stocked shelves with wine in anticipation of the big day. There is a sign letting customers know they can't buy it yet.

Many businesses are letting their 3.2 beer sell out so they're not stuck with low point inventory come October 1st.

"There’s been a lot of places that are completely empty," said Cindy Jones, manager of 50 EZ Shop. "We’ve just been selling out and not buying any."

Businesses have to apply for a retail license through the ABLE Commission to sell strong beer or wine. They also have to apply for employee licenses for those who make the transactions.

Read more here.

Oklahoma set to implement alcohol retailing reforms


Starting this Fall, Oklahoma grocery stores will be allowed to sell wine and full-strength beer, and liquor stores will be allowed to sell cold beer. According to NewsOK, concerns over the implementation of the new changes appear to have been sufficiently addressed prior to the state legislature's adjournment:

Last-minute legislation prevented the need for a special session to deal with Oklahoma's new alcohol modernization laws, the bill's author said.

House Floor Leader Jon Echols said Senate Bill 1173, which passed both chambers Thursday just hours before lawmakers adjourned for the year, is the bare minimum of law needed before the voter-enacted changes go into effect.

On Oct. 1, Oklahoma grocery stores can sell wine and higher-strength beer, and liquor stores can install refrigerators to sell cold beer for the first time. The state question that approved those policies left some regulatory gaps, however...

Read the rest here.

Oklahoma Dry Counties to Vote on Allowing Alcohol Sales


Oklahoma is one of several states that still has so-called "dry counties" that prohibit the sale of alcohol. According to the Enid News & Eagle, however, the state will allow the dry counties to vote on whether to allow drink sales at bars and restaurants:

The 14 remaining "dry" counties in the state of Oklahoma will all give their residents a chance to vote on a liquor-by-the-drink sales proposition on the June 26 ballot...

As of now, the 14 counties do not allow the sale of strong beer, wine or liquor in local restaurants or bars. If the proposition were to pass, the counties that pass it would be allowed to sell alcohol above 3.2 percent by weight and continue business as normal.

However, if the proposition fails to pass, the counties failing to pass it would not be allowed to sell any beer, wine or liquor starting Oct. 1, while the rest of the state embraces alcohol modernization.

"We are very happy to see that the county commissioners in each of these counties understand the damage of not allowing liquor-by-the-drink sales could do to businesses," said Oklahoma Beer Alliance President Lisette Barnes. "This is the right way forward to give local residents a chance to vote on this issue."

Despite 12 of the 14 dry counties approving State Question 792 - which allows for the sale of cold strong beer in grocery, convenience and liquor stores - it didn't change local laws that restrict sales of alcohol more than 3.2 percent at restaurants and bars..."

Read the rest here.


From Four Tiers to Three: Oklahoma Set to Overhaul Its Booze Distribution Laws


While most states operate under a version of the three-tier alcohol distribution system, Oklahoma technically has a four-tier system: producer, distributor, broker, and retailer. But as the Tulsa World's "What the Ale" blog reports, Oklahoma will be transitioning to a more traditional three-tier system later this year:

"A lot of things will change in the beer, wine and spirits world in October, not just cold regular beer and wine in grocery and convenience stores.

The Oklahoma distribution system is changing too. Oklahoma has been a four-tier state for a long time. Now, it is changing to a three-tier state.

The four tiers included producer/supplier, importer/distributor, broker and retailer. Under the new system, the broker will merge into the importer/distributor category.

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..."

Read the rest here.

Judge tosses Oklahoma liquor stores' challenge to wine in grocery stores


Last November, Oklahomans passed a ballot initiative allowing wine and full-strength beer to be sold in grocery stores across the state (previously only liquor stores could sell beer and wine). State alcohol retailers challenged the vote in court, but a federal judge just dismissed the suit and allowed the initiative to stand. As reported by NewsOK.com:

"A federal judge has dismissed liquor stores owners' legal challenge to a new law that will allow Oklahoma grocery stores to sell wine in 2018.

The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma, a trade group representing liquor store owners, filed the lawsuit challenging the new law in December.

Oklahoma voters in November approved State Question 792, which will allow grocery stores and convenience stores to sell wine and cold, full-strength beer beginning in October 2018. The measure passed with 65 percent of the vote.

U.S. District Court Judge Robin Cauthron on Thursday rejected the liquor store owners' protestations over SQ 792..."

Read the rest here.