The Thirsty Beagle: SJR 68 passes state Senate, Budweiser deal included

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

SJR 68 passes state Senate, Budweiser deal included

The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday passed Senate Joint Resolution 68, sending the likely vehicle for state alcohol law reform to the House for discussion and debate.

The version of the measure approved by the Senate -- on a 28-16 vote -- features at least one significant change from the as-introduced version: A concession that allows Anheuser-Busch to maintain ownership of its Oklahoma City and Tulsa distribution businesses, for the time being.

The key overall gist of the measure as far as consumers are concerned is that it would allow the sale of cold, full-strength beer and wine in grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations and drug stores, etc.

While the measure would allow small Oklahoma brewers to sell their own sealed and packaged beer straight out of their brewery, it would not allow brewers to sell drinks by the glass for consumption on-premise. In other words, it would not permit operation of legitimate tap rooms.

That change is not out of the question, however. It would need to be addressed in other legislation considered by state lawmakers.

(Which raises an interesting question: If there is no distinction between high-point and low-point beer anymore, it stands to reason that places like COOP, Roughtail and Anthem would not be able to sell pints of low-point beer without approval of some kind of overarching tap room law. That puts a lot of pressure on whatever other legislation is out there to get something done, in my mind.)

As for A-B, SJR 68 would give lawmakers the ability to "duly enact legislation to require, by statute, the divestiture of all brewery-branches."

So Anheuser-Busch, after slamming measure author Sen. Clark Jolley in print, on television and on the Internet, was able to secure a compromise with the senator that lets them kick the distribution can down the road and fight that battle another day.

Reaction came out quickly on Tuesday from all sides on SJR 68. Here is a sampling:

"The Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma is pleased to see that the legislative process is moving forward. We continue to feel that this gives all interested parties the opportunity to be involved in reform. We are interested to see what happens as this measure enters the House and what supporting legislation is introduced. We want to see a more modern market environment in which both consumer choice and Oklahoma businesses thrive."

-- Zach Prichard, president of Choc Beer Co. and the CBAO

"We applaud the Senate for passing SJR 68 to give Oklahomans the opportunity to vote on modernizing our alcohol laws in November. Our current laws, left-over from Prohibition, hold back our economy, hassle consumers and send money out of the state. It's time to update our beer and wine laws to increase choices and convenience for Oklahomans."

-- Tyler Moore, spokesman for Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom/Tap Oklahoma (Blogger's note: Tap Oklahoma is backed by the likes of Walmart and the state's large grocery and convenience chains.)

"We have always supported modernization, but not at the cost of our business and jobs in Oklahoma. We are pleased that the current legislation allows us to maintain our operations and employees in Oklahoma, while giving Oklahoma beer drinkers what they are looking for -- cold, strong beer through a distribution system that provides both quality and convenience. We look forward to continue working closely with all parties to ensure true modernization is achieved for the Oklahoma consumer."

-- Anheuser-Busch Sales of Oklahoma 

"The independent members of the Beer Distributors of Oklahoma applaud the state Senate for their passage of SJR 68 and commend Senator Clark Jolley for his focused work in seeing the resolution through the Senate. BDO also commends Senator Brian Bingman and Senator Stephanie Bice for their leadership as well on this complex issue. Their collective efforts hopefully will provide the opportunity for Oklahomans to vote November 8th to modernize Oklahoma’s alcohol beverage laws in an equitable, safe and responsible manner. Doing so will protect the independent three-tier system, provide additional consumer choice and convenience and allow Oklahoma craft beer brewers to expand their markets. The alcohol modernization process is complicated, and many stakeholders, including BDO, have participated for many months in complex discussions. SJR 68 is a broad-based resolution that will accomplish the type of responsible alcohol modernization Oklahomans have stated they desire.” 

 -- Brett Robinson, president of the Beer Distributors of Oklahoma

"The Oklahoma Senate today passed SJR68 by Senator Clark Jolley; a bill that would allow strong beer and wine into thousands of new outlets while putting hundreds of locally-owned shops out of business, increasing strong alcohol access to teens and putting enforcement of alcohol laws solely on the already overburdened backs of local police and sheriff's departments. The bill would also allow Anheuser-Busch to continue operating in their current model here in Oklahoma and concentrate beer, wine and spirits sales into a few hands through a quasi-franchise system that was put in place for no other reason than to give big companies further advantages over small, locally-owned businesses. It was a big win for big out-of-state corporations and chain stores who hired scads of lobbyists and threw bags of money at this legislation to try and ensure its passage."

-- Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma

"LOCAL still supports SJR 68 as a legislative vehicle that moves the state towards change. We're happy that the legislature solved the distribution roadblock. While we're not completely satisfied with that solution, that is the nature of political compromise. We hope that we can come together as a single, combined industry and create a fair legislative compromise that does not include the mayhem of various and often punitive petitions. A similar legislative solution to the concerns around retail licensing can be reached, we just have to find it. Everyone involved has legitimate concerns, but if we come together we can make modernization happen this year. LOCAL continues to represent the consumer and is dedicated to ensuring that their desires are paramount in any solution proposed."

-- Kevin Hall, executive director of League of Oklahomans for Change in Alcohol Laws

I think that's a good point to end on tonight. I'll follow up with some of my own reaction in the next couple days.

6 comments:

  1. Why is allowing a craft brewery to sell packaged beer on premise a big deal? Why not allow them to have tap rooms to make that money back without having to bottle or can when they are just taking those bottles or cans right over to their tap room...? RLAO's crazy bill is looking better and better. ABINBEV needs to be made to open a brewery in the state then if they want to sell their own packaged beer.

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    1. But rlao's "crazy" bill doesn't allow for packaged sale from the brewery, only growler fills. Which means no small production special releases. They still want to maintain as much profitability as they can from breweries, instead of letting them make their own way into the market

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