Oklahoma has long been known as a place with kooky liquor laws. No cold beer in liquor stores, which can’t sell mixers or ice. No wine or strong beer in grocery stores.
Remember “liquor by the wink” when you supposedly had to join a club and bring your own bottle to get a gin and tonic at a hotel bar?
The prevailing wisdom on all this for years is that the liquor store lobby and the Southern Baptist lobby have joined together in an unholy alliance to deprive Oklahomans of the same basic shopping convenience enjoyed by millions of people throughout the nation.
Liquor store owners here don’t want business competition, the supposed hallmark of capitalism. They want the state to guarantee their profits through archaic laws. The Southern Baptist leadership apparently views the devil brew as counterproductive to leading a rewarding spiritual life, though even Will Rogers once remarked, “Oklahoma will be a dry state as long as the voters can stagger to the polls.”
Greed. Hypocrisy. Two of Oklahoma’s less attractive attributes joining together to prevent the application of common sense. What else is new, right?
The group Oklahomans for Modern Laws once seemed a bright hope for liquor law change here, but now that notion seems unclear given the parameters of their announced initiative petition drive, which would replace kooky with, well, more kooky.
The group has announced it will collect signatures to get a measure on the ballot that would allow ONLY wine sales in ONLY grocery stores at least 25,000 square feet. This could only happen in the state’s largest 15 counties. Corporations could only get six location licenses altogether. To get those licenses, corporations would have to perform certain sacrificial rituals involving a rain of catfish, and those people purchasing the wine would have to do so blindfolded and would later be tattooed with a scarlet “W” on their forehead. (Okay, that last sentence isn’t true. Kooky is what kooky is.)
According to media reports, the group limited its scope in order to make it more quenching for voters, but its under reach might well doom the proposal altogether. Can anyone really imagine this as a first step to sane liquor laws given its own quirkiness and limitations?
Why not collect signatures for a ballot measure that would allow wine and strong beer sales in all grocery and convenience stores and allow liquor stores to sell food, mixers and ice to level the playing field? Let them serve that beer and the appropriate wine chilled.
Let’s have the real fight, and, if we lose, we’ll get back up and fight the kooky laws again and again until we win. That’s the path to victory.