What’s up with the rather vicious local Budweiser political campaign to keep Oklahoma’s liquor laws as archaic and nonsensical as ever?
If you’ve watched any local television recently, you know what I’m talking about. Budweiser has been running full throttle fear-monger advertisements opposing a legislative bill, Senate Joint Resolution 68, which would allow voters this November to modernize the state’s liquor laws. The ballot measure, if approved, would allow full-strength beer and wine to be sold in grocery stores. Liquor stores would then be able to sell non-alcohol products for up to 20 percent of their total sales.
Meanwhile, an initiative petition drive sponsored by Oklahomans for Modern Laws is underway to put a similar measure on the ballot. Another group, Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom, is also pushing for modernizing our liquor laws that’s getting support even from WalMart, according to a recent NewsOK.com article. Here’s the scoop by Brianna Bailey:
Oklahoma group seeks state vote on wine and strong beer in grocery, convenience stores: By Brianna Bailey Business… https://t.co/feLI4fn5RB
— OKC Breaking News (@okc_news) February 4, 2016
I’ve been arguing for years—as have many others here—that Oklahoma needs to change its archaic and weird liquor laws. It seems only reasonable and logical that the trade off for allowing liquor stores to sell other products, such as mixers, ice, olives for martinis, cheese, deli meats or whatever, while allowing grocery stores to sell regular-strength beer and wine would work well as a compromise and placate the largest number of people with a business interest in selling booze in Oklahoma.
Much more importantly, it would be fantastic for people who buy the liquor and drink it. Oh yeah, the liquor stores could even sell cold beer. What a brilliant concept, right? “The people” (remember us, Budweiser?) get the convenience and more choices.
But, as the always wise and irreverent Patrick Riley on The Lost Ogle points out, Budweiser or at least local affiliates of Anheuser-Busch Companies are “horse pissed” because they have the market cornered on 3.2 swill here, and they don’t want to lose it. Here’s how Riley puts it:
I’ve asked around, and this whole campaign is nothing but a scare tactic from Anheuser – Busch. They are horse pissed (get it?) that SJR 68 will eliminate 3.2% beer in Oklahoma. That strength of beer is so awful and weak that it’s essentially considered a food product in Oklahoma, which is why you can buy it at grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores or even from some guy’s ice chest while walking to an OU football game. It also means that the brewer can distribute their cheap, watered-down, flavorless product directly to retailers, thus eliminating a middle-man wholesaler. It’s a great deal for them.
Repeat after me: Good riddance to 3.2 swill. Sing it, too: So long it’s not been good to know you.
There are some questions and points to make here. Why couldn’t Budweiser just sell regular-strength beer here? So what if the distributors have to reconfigure their business model locally or whatever? Will this allow other Budweiser distributors to come into the market? Are they simply raging against change? So be it. Also, there’s this information on the Anheuser-Busch company site: “Anheuser-Busch InBev is a publicly traded company (Euronext: ABI) based in Leuven, Belgium . . . “ I don’t want to sound pedestrian here, but how in the world does it come to pass that an European-based company is allowing people under one of their so-called “American” signature brands to try to keep Oklahoma mired in the Dark Ages when it comes to liquor laws? No offense to the Clydesdales or Peyton Manning.
Of course, Belgium’s relationship to other countries, like the one outlined in Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness shows that country has a terrible past and, well, their genocidal, tyrannical leaders, Belgium King Leopold II, who “reigned” from 1865 to 1909, was directly responsible for the deaths of what some experts say were 10 million African people in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo as he stole their country’s natural resources for his own personal enrichment. I digress.
Anyway, whether it’s through legislation or an initiative petition drive, it looks promising that voters will have a chance this year to change our liquor laws. Some liquor store owners oppose it, of course, saying it could put them out of business. I’m sure Southern Baptist Church leaders will oppose any modernization of the liquor laws, and, sure, that’s to be expected here in Oklahoma. Those who regulate the liquor industry on a state level have also opposed such measures in the past, arguing it could lead to more underage drinking. Obviously, I can understand the worry of liquor store owners. I disagree with the regulators’ point about a possible increase in underage drinking, and I disagree with Baptists, in general, but at least I understand the point. I don’t get the Budweiser campaign on any real, philosophical level. It seems based entirely on self interest and profits, and there are lot of unanswered questions.
For example, the Bud camp on its site dealing with the issue argues it supports, and I quote, “Modernization that will provide cold, full-strength beer to Oklahomans in grocery, convenience and liquor stores.” But then it also claims it supports, “Using the current 3.2 beer distribution system that ensures both quality and convenience for consumers.” I think that needs more explanation. This article tries to explain it. I’m still left wondering why we would need 3.2 beer or its delivery system here any more under new laws. I think that would be tremendously confusing to people.
I actually lived and had a drink or two during the “liquor by the wink” days and the vote in 1984 that officially allowed liquor sales in restaurants and bars instead of “private clubs” (wink, wink) so I know we can get these changes passed eventually. Let’s hope this is the year for progress.