At the Oklahoma Craft Beer Summit Wednesday afternoon, dozens of people guzzled cold ones while representatives of various local brewers took turns at the microphone.
At 5 p.m., Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-Yukon) took to the podium at Oak & Ore in Oklahoma City’s Plaza District to explain her proposal for modernizing Oklahoma liquor laws, a concept popular among booze enthusiasts from many walks of life.
Bice, a mother of two, said while pushing SB 383 last legislative session, she expanded the original language to allow for wine sales in grocery stores because many other mothers had told her how badly they wanted to grab a bottle of vino while they were shopping for snacks and diapers with their children.
“I’ve spent the last eight months meeting with every entity I can possibly think of that would have an interest in this topic,” Bice said.
The first-term state senator’s remarks are posted in a video above, and she answered questions from those in the audience. Unprompted, she also mentioned Oklahoma’s well-documented substance abuse problems and expressed a desire to address them as well. That pleased Julia Jernigan, executive director for the Oklahoma Substance Abuse Services Alliance.
“I really appreciate that Sen. Bice brought up the fact that substance abuse is a topic around (alcohol law) modernization,” she said. “The means of access is what we’re looking at. It could possibly mean that there’s an increase in the clientele that we see. I really appreciate the fact that she is having us at the table and talking about this continuously.”
Patrick Lively, vice president of the Craft Brew Association of Oklahoma, said craft brewers could benefit greatly through Bice’s proposed bill, which has now been endorsed by several chambers of commerce in preparation for its proposal again this session.
“Startup breweries that are very, very small would have the ability to create some revenue and cash flow centered around the idea that they could sell themselves, most likely in their neighborhood,” Lively said Wednesday. “Currently, that is not legal. Currently, every ounce of beer you make that is not 3.2 percent by weight or less, you have to sell to a wholesaler.”
Lively, Bice and others said it’s too early to know exactly what this year’s alcohol-law modernization bill will look like. But Lively, the brewmaster for Anthem Brewing Co., said craft brewers are well-positioned in the discussions.
“The Craft Brew Association of Oklahoma has a strong position centered around creating larger avenues for access to market, not only for our members but for the consumers who support their companies,” Lively said. “One of the main ways we see that played out is through rights given to the breweries to serve on premises in their own tap rooms, as well as potential self-distribution rights for smaller brewing companies.”
(Editor’s Note: NonDoc is supported through advertising by the Beer Distributors of Oklahoma, and publisher Andrew Rice has a personal relationship with the craft brew bar and restaurant Oak & Ore.)
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