monopolies lead to higher prices
Rules concerning the distribution of liquor in Oklahoma changed Oct. 1, 2018. (Tres Savage)

To the editors:

A recent letter from Dale Szyndrowski of the Distilled Spirits Council cast doubt on SB 608 and our effort to fight a monopoly and restore fairness and competition to Oklahoma’s liquor distribution system, saying that we should respect the voters who approved State Question 792 in 2016.

The funny thing about that is, the voters did NOT vote on changes to the distribution system; none of that language appeared in the description on the ballot. Oklahoma voters would not have knowingly signed off on creating an out-of-state monopoly. Monopolies lead to higher prices and fewer choices — no one voted for that.

Oklahoma voters supported the changes on the consumer side that brought wine and strong beer sales to grocery stores. SB 608 will not change any of that. What it does do is exempt the top 25 wine and liquor brands from designation by manufacturers to a single distributor. In other words, it will end the virtual monopoly created by out-of-state giants RNDC and Southern Glazer’s. It will restore competition between Oklahoma wholesalers for Oklahoma businesses — the retailers, restaurants and bars who now have no say from whom they purchase products. SB 608 is good for Oklahoma business and Oklahoma consumers.

Interestingly, in 2016 Szyndrowski and DISCUS were singing a different tune. KTUL in Tulsa quoted DISCUS on April 14, 2016, as urging Oklahoma legislators to understand the “job losses, economic hardship and the creation of a monopoly” that the new law would cause.

From the KTUL story: “Our economic analysis estimates that package stores will lose an average of $218,000 in revenue annually, or about 24 percent of store revenue, due to lost foot traffic,” Szyndrowski said. “We are also concerned with special provisions that have been slipped into SJR 68 which will consolidate more than 90 percent of wine and spirits sales into the hands of just two companies. The language creates a virtual monopoly for the beneficiaries.

“This will force businesses to close and Oklahomans to lose their jobs. It will also mean fewer choices for consumers.”

They were right three years ago when they warned this could happen, and we’re right today. The good news is, SB 608 will restore competition and fairness to Oklahoma’s liquor distribution system.

Bryan Hendershot
Owner, Boardwalk Distribution