Come Fall, Oklahomans will be offered stronger brew — and in more places.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first part in a two-part series about upcoming changes that can be expected because of an alcohol law approved by voters in November 2016. It will become effective Oct. 1]

Come Fall, Oklahomans will be offered stronger brew — and in more places.

A new alcohol law, passed by voters in November 2016, is much closer to becoming finalized as the effective date comes this Fall — Oct. 1. Though the higher alcohol content is perhaps the biggest shift to the law, other key changes aren't far behind. Residents will visibly notice the convenience as many new businesses — like grocers and gas stations — will be able to add the higher-content liquor to their shelves, and at frosty temperatures.

What it means

In the state of Oklahoma, State Question 792 legalizes beer up to 8.99 percent alcohol content and wine up to 15 percent alcohol content — 3.2 percent or less is current law. Residents would be able to buy it in grocery stores and convenience stores, and liquor stores would now be able to sell cold beer; the law will go into effect Oct. 1 this year.

Age to sell

Currently in Oklahoma, employees at liquor stores have to be at least 21 years old to sell or handle alcoholic beverages, but store owners selling only low-point beer are not covered by ABLE and their employees can be young as 16.

As a requirement of SQ 792, employees at grocery and convenience stores would have to be at least 18 in order to handle or sell beer or wine.

When to sell

Right now the law states that liquor stores can sell alcoholic beverages between the hours of 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. any day but Sunday — and at room temperature.

The new law will okay the purchase of refrigerated alcohol in liquor stores Monday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and midnight.

Grocers and convenience store owners now can sell cold low-point (3.2 percent or less) beer every day between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. the next morning.

The new law will allow sales from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. the next morning.

Who's in charge?

Right now, the ABLE Commission deals with licensing for liquor stores, but the Oklahoma Tax Commission is the agency in charge of low-point beer sales; the new law will place all oversight into the hands of the ABLE Commission.

Pros/Cons to increased availability

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, at niaaa.nih.gov, global access to and consumption of alcohol has never been higher. But the

institute cautions, “it has never been more important to understand the physical and social consequences of drinking. Research clearly shows that alcohol can have both a direct and indirect effect on social life, injury, chronic disease, and death.”

On the other hand, according to the Blue Zones Project, at pottawatomie.bluezonesproject.com, a well-being initiative — actively underway in Shawnee — touts the positive effects of enjoying (in moderation) a glass of wine with food and friends each day.

Alcohol-related crime

Tecumseh Police Chief J.R. Kidney said though he would need to read the actual law to become more educated with it, his initial response is that he doesn't expect there to be a spike in DUIs or crime.

People are going to drink no matter where they buy it, he said.

“I hate it for the locally owned liquor stores — they will lose money,” Kidney said, “but it will be convenient for consumers.”

 

Watch for Part 2 on the new alcohol law in the News-Star and watch for even more coverage as the effective date approaches.