Oklahoma's New Beer & Wine Sales Law Faces Opposition

OKLAHOMA CITY — A group of liquor stores in the state are challenging a pending move to allow the sale of wine and full-strength beer sales in convenience and grocery stores.

Voters in the general election in November approved the ballot measure, known as State Question 792 (SQ 792), marking the first time Oklahoma's liquor laws have been updated in roughly six decades. The changes go into effect in October 2018.

However, The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma (RLAO) and Joseph P. Richard, owner of Cache Road Discount Liquor and Wine in Lawton, filed the lawsuit against the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission on Dec. 19 in Oklahoma County District Court, according to The Oklahoman.

The plaintiffs are seeking a court order to stop the Oklahoma ABLE Commission from implementing the many changes to state alcohol laws that are part of the ballot question.

The liquor store owners argue in the lawsuit that SQ 792 is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees equal protection for all under the law, the news outlet reported.

While SQ 792 allows convenience and grocery stores to operate an unlimited number of locations that can sell wine and beer, the measure limits liquor stores to just two locations, said Bryan Kerr, president of the RLAO.

"We don't believe the state can show a compelling interest in regulating grocery and convenience stores differently than it does liquor stores," Kerr said.

The Yes on 792 campaign, which promoted the ballot measure, said in a statement to the news outlet that it believed the measure would withstand any legal challenge. The Yes on 792 campaign is a coalition of businesses but its largest backer is Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

"Oklahoma consumers made their wishes known at the voting booth with their overwhelming support of modern beer and wine laws. In a last-ditch effort, RLAO has countered with a lawsuit, which we believe is meritless. If a business chooses to sell spirits, they must abide by different rules. SQ 792 is a commonsense law that will stand up to scrutiny," the Yes on 792 campaign said.

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