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Liquor stores still battling SQ 792

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Just two days after the public voted "yes" to modernize Oklahoma's liquor laws, liquor stores are taking the matter to court, saying the bill shouldn't have even been on the ballot.

The Retail Liquor Association plans on filing a lawsuit against State Question 792 sometime in the next 30 days that challenges the constitutionality of the bill. 792 will bring cold, strong-point beer and wine sales to gas stations and convenience stores.  It passed on Tuesday with 65-percent of the vote.

Two of the big issues that liquor stores are using for their case are who the bill was written by, they believe it was essentially written by big grocery corporations, and that it will completely change how alcohol is sold and distributed.

"It was written by the lobbyists who work for the grocers, primarily Walmart and the convenience stores and so this is like corporate greed on steroids because they wrote everything in for themselves to give them all the advantages and they basically cast us to the side,” Owner of Cache Road Liquor JP Richard said.

More than 900,000 people voted in favor of State Question 792 on Tuesday but Richard said that doesn't change the fact that he will fight for what he thinks is right.

"If somebody is upset that I'm trying to defend the status quo then so be it,” Richard said. “I'm sorry but I've got 44 years in this business and then for an out of state corporation, who is no friend of Oklahoma, to come in here, into this state and basically takes this product from me and gives me nothing in return. Yea, I'm a little upset about it."

In the past, Richard said there were 6 wholesalers that purchased alcohol from big liquor companies. He said they were required to sell to any of the wholesalers who wanted to buy, meaning whenever a liquor store went to buy a product from the wholesaler, they all had the product and the competition kept the price down. In the new system, the big liquor companies will have the opportunity to make an agreement with a wholesaler, making them the exclusive carrier of some products. That means the other 5 wholesalers would not have access to those exclusive products, forcing liquor stores to pay the wholesaler who owns the product whatever they want.

"Why anyone would think the price would stay where it is right now, where it is competitively low compared to any of our surrounding states,” Richard said. “It will go up because the guy who owns Jack Daniels will make 22, 23 percent markup instead of 8 or 9."

Richard says they understand the people want alcohol modernization and that they also support it, but they are filing a lawsuit against 792 that they believe is for the good of the state.

"We think the bill is totally unconstitutional and if the judge decides that, then we're ready to renegotiate with one of the authors of this bill to do something that's more sensible and something that's better for the people in this state,” Richard said.

Richard said he expects some sort of action either way on the lawsuit by March or April of 2017. 792 doesn't go into effect until October of 2018.

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