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Petition Drive
Recently Oklahomans for Modern Laws filed a petition with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. Here's is the full text.
The RLAO does not support this latest iteration of WIGS (Wine in Grocery Stores) for several good reasons:

1) It increases the availability of strong alcohol to minors by increasing both the number of outlets as well as allowing people under the age of 21 to sell a product that currently can only be sold by those old enough to legally consume it.

2) It is inherently unfair to locally owned package stores located close to those grocery stores who take advantage of this new law. These “grocery wine" licenses will create no benefit for the consumer except the small convenience of buying wine in one stop instead of two while pushing locally-owned package stores, who are unlucky enough to have opened close to a big grocer in a big city, out of business. Competition will suffer and the consumer will be faced with fewer choices at higher prices while money that was previously made and spent locally is suddenly funneled out of Oklahoma and to the corporate headquarters in other states like Arkansas, Washington and California.

3) Should this become law, only 15 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties would even have the option of allowing WIGS thus driving business away from both small, locally-owned liquor and wine shops as well as small, locally-owned grocery stores, and even large grocery stores in smaller towns.

What is the real benefit of this proposed law? A tiny bit of convenience.

What is the cost of that convenience? More alcohol in the hands of minors, less choice, higher prices & fewer locally owned businesses.

Is it worth it? For all the reasons listed above, we say “no to WIGS.”



Rebuttal: Oklahomans for Modern Laws
Bryan Kerr, RLAO member

The people calling themselves "Oklahomans for Modern Laws," a supposed grass-roots effort to reform alcohol laws in our state, put forward several specious reasons for supporting their convoluted petition drive. Here is the actual text from their Web site (in red) followed by an examination of its validity and sincerity...

Increase Tax Revenues – New wine outlets will lead to additional commerce.  This additional commerce helps the revenue of both the retailer and local & state tax revenue.
There is no reason to believe that more places selling wine will cause people to spend more money on wine. People will spend the same amount of money, just at different stores.

Help Local Wineries – Creating additional wine outlets could benefit local wineries by providing them an opportunity to expand their operations.
Many Oklahoma-owned wineries oppose this petition because they know what happened in other states that allowed wine in grocery stores: small, local producers were squeezed out in favor of giant, multi-national corporations who have the resources to force grocery stores to carry only their product when there is limited, valuable shelf space. "Oklahomans for Modern Laws" are so acutely aware that their point here is invalid, that they even bothered to hedge by saying it "could benefit" local wineries. It won't, and everyone involved knows it.

Consideration of Local Liquor Retailers by Limiting Licenses – In the surveys that we have conducted, a reason that Oklahomans might oppose this law change is an increase in accessibility.  We have addressed this concern by limiting the number of licenses to the following three criteria: 1) Grocer with 25,000 square feet in Floor Space, 2) Counties with a population of 50,000 or greater, and 3) Two license per entity every two years phase-in period.
To say this another way, "We know that additional outlets for strong alcohol is rightfully opposed by many good Oklahomans so we'll only allow a few at a time." That way they won't be doing the thing you don't want all at once; they'll hurt Oklahomans slowly. It's like offering to poke someone with a slightly less sharp stick because the really sharp stick is more painful. How about we opt to not get poked at all?

Antiquated Laws – Our laws governing off-premise sales have been virtually unchanged since the appeal of prohibition in 1959 (with the exception of Election Day sales).  Societies evolve and so should the laws that govern them.
This is the least credible of all their arguments. There have been hundreds, maybe thousands, of laws that have remained unchanged for decades because these laws are good for Oklahomans. Is having strong alcohol more readily available to minors considered evolution? Many other states do not allow the sale of wine in grocery stores including Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Pennsylvania & New York. Does Oklahomans for Modern Laws believe the people in all these places are primitive as well or is their derision just reserved for the Oklahomans who disagree with them?

Competing with Neighboring States – Our state frequently competes both directly and indirectly for investments, jobs, and talented professionals.  This small change sends a message that Oklahoma is willing to make the tough choices to make convenience and quality of life a top priority for our citizens.
We would challenge Oklahomans for Modern Laws to find a single person who chose not to live and work in our wonderful state because that person had to stop by their local wine shop to buy a bottle instead of being able to get it at the Wal-Mart. Do they really expect us to believe that allowing people to buy a case of White Zin at Sam's will suddenly make life better for everyone? Trying to sell this as a "quality of life" issue is disingenuous at best.

Attraction of New Retail Outlets – National retailers bring both capital investment dollars and more competitive jobs with higher wages and better benefits.
Time has proved this to be incorrect. Whole Foods has two stores in Oklahoma already. Wal-Mart and Sam's are both happy to do business in almost every Oklahoma city and town without the right to sell strong beer and wine. Costco has plans to start building stores here in the near future. Also, most of the positions offered by these national retailers are low-wage, part-time, limited-benefit positions.

Oklahomans for Modern Laws don't want what is best for Oklahoma. They want what is best for their friends and financial backers who own large grocery stores in Oklahoma's biggest cities. One look at the language of their petition and their inept attempts to justify it tell the real story. Tell Oklahomans for Modern Laws that we aren't buying their malarkey. Refuse to sign the petition and tell your friends to refuse too.



Sooner Poll
Here's a link to the Sooner Poll showing that a majority of Oklahomans would like to see liquor, wine and strong beer sales stay right where they are now.

W.I.G.S. (Wine In Grocery Stores)

Those arguing in favor of change, particularly the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, falsely claim that allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell wine and strong beer in Oklahoma will attract new business, jobs and tax revenue to the state. What they fail to acknowledge is all of the local jobs and businesses that will be lost as a result of big box retailers getting into a business that has been completely local since Oklahoma started allowing the sale of strong beer and wine in 1959.

The Chamber insists that W.I.G.S. (Wine in Grocery Stores) will cause an influx of bigger and better grocery stores like they have in Texas and California. Even if this is true, these new stores will accomplish three things for the citizens of Oklahoma:

1) Put some of the current local grocery and convenience stores out of business who already struggle to compete with giant multi-national corporations who buy much of their product from China and other overseas suppliers.

2) Take jobs and businesses away from Oklahomans who work in and own retail package stores. For every "additional" job that a big, impersonal Costco or Sunflower Market creates, one job will be lost at a local wine or spirits shop.

3) Money that used to stay completely local will now flow out of the state to corporate headquarters in Arkansas, Arizona, Washington and California. Not one of these grocery store chains that are pushing for a change in Oklahoma liquor laws has its headquarters in Oklahoma. Meanwhile, money that is currently spent in local retail package stores is money that stays in Oklahoma. Since all retail package stores are locally owned and operated and the owners of these stores shop locally, the vast majority of money spent at your local wine and spirits shop stays not just Oklahoma but right in the community where it is spent.

The RLAO is also not convinced that the state will see additional tax revenue from W.I.G.S. since any wine or strong beer purchased at a grocery or convenience store will be offset by that same product not being purchased at a retail package store.

Putting the false economics of the pro-W.I.G.S. interests aside, there is also the extra cost caused by the increased availability of strong alcohol. The cost of more drunk drivers, more underage drinking and more need for government enforcement to help mitigate these social ills.

In short W.I.G.S. makes no sense for the people of Oklahoma. It is poor direction both economically and socially. That is why the RLAO is fighting to keep our current (working) system in place.

Simply put, we do not believe a small increase in "convenience" is worth the trade off in actual costs.


Natural Grocers, a progressive grocery store based in Colorado, supports these views and has a very nicely written piece devoted to such as a result of a similar initiative in their home state. They recently opened a store in Norman.

Retail Liquor Association Of Oklahoma • (405) 310-9219 • 2002 NW Cache Road • Lawton, OK 73507
 
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