Oklahoma governor signs bill to change liquor distribution

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gov. Kevin Stitt has approved legislation intended to give smaller liquor stores more wholesale options in Oklahoma.

The bill Stitt signed Monday requires top brands of wine and spirits to be sold to all of Oklahoma's alcohol wholesalers. Currently, manufacturers of wine and spirits can designate a single wholesaler to distribute their products.

The bill alters a law that voters approved in 2016 allowing the sale of wine and strong beer in grocery and convenience stores and the sale of cold, strong beer in liquor stores. It took effect in October.

The voter-approved measure also allowed wholesalers to gain sole distribution rights for specific brands, benefiting some of Oklahoma's 11 wholesalers. But Tulsa-based Boardwalk Distribution failed to secure the rights to distribute any of the top 100 brands.

"It was an unintended consequence I think that happened on that original change," Stitt told The Oklahoman. "It's not going to affect anything with how consumers get their wine at the grocery store and the original changes that they voted."

Oklahoma-based and family-owned Central Liquor Co. and Jarboe Sales Co. were two long-operating wholesalers that secured partnerships with large, out-of-state distributors. Republic National Distribution Co. merged with Central to form RNDC-Oklahoma, and Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits merged with Jarboe to form Southern Glazer's Oklahoma.

Boardwalk did not merge with a national distributor, and owner Bryan Hendershot has estimated that Boardwalk will lose $100 million in sales in its first year following the October changes. Hendershot subsequently pushed for changes that would grant his company the ability to distribute the top 25 brands of wine and spirits without securing exclusive rights to any.


24 people arrested in alleged heroin distribution network

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Federal authorities say 24 people have been arrested in connection with a drug-trafficking ring that's tied to a Mexican cartel authorities believe distributed about 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of heroin a week in northeastern Oklahoma.

The Tulsa World reports the arrests were made Tuesday after federal authorities unsealed a 73-count indictment against 29 people in connection with an investigation dubbed Operation Smack Dragon. Officials say five defendants remain at large in Mexico or elsewhere.

Officials say law enforcement agencies executed search warrants during the arrests and reportedly seized 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of heroin, $150,000 in drug proceeds, two firearms and four vehicles.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel-Lyn McCormick says the investigation began in 2017 after investigators learned about the drug trafficking ring tied to the New Generation Cartel in Mexico.


2 rescued from scaffold near top of 50-story Oklahoma tower

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two window washers have been rescued from a dangling scaffold above the roof of a nearly 850-foot (259 meters) skyscraper in downtown Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City Fire Capt. David Macy says the two were stranded shortly before 7:45 a.m. Wednesday outside the 50-floor Devon Tower and were pulled to safety about 8:30 a.m.

Macy said firefighters secured the scaffold with ropes as it hung from a crane 20-30 feet (6-9 meters) above the roof. Video from the scene showed the scaffold banging against the building, breaking windows and dropping shattered glass on sidewalks and streets below.

Police closed the area to traffic.

Macy said paramedics evaluated both men, who refused treatment. He said the cause of the accident is under investigation.

The tower houses corporate offices for Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp.