The Thirsty Beagle: Reversal: ABLE aims to block brewery pint sales

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Reversal: ABLE aims to block brewery pint sales

Just weeks after Oklahoma craft brewers believed they had won assurance they would be able to sell their full-strength beer by the glass at their breweries, the state ABLE Commission today delivered a devastating blow to the industry.

Representatives from the state's craft beer industry met with ABLE officials this afternoon, expecting to find resolution on the issue of sales of growlers of full-strength beer. 

Instead, brewers learned that ABLE had reversed course and intends to block the sale of full-strength beer by the glass. The brewers believed such sales would be allowed under Senate Bill 424, which was passed during the most recent legislative session and is set to go into effect on Aug. 26.

Brewers learned today that ABLE believes SB 424 actually does allow growler sales, and sales of bottles and cans, but only for off-premise consumption. The agency's interpretation of the bill suggests that on-premise consumption of full-strength beer -- by the glass, in other words -- is not allowed.

No formal rule has been issued by ABLE on this -- at this point it appears the news delivered to brewers today can only be construed as ABLE's intentions. And it remains unclear what recourse the brewers have. If a rule is formally issued, they may have the ability to challenge or appeal it.

In the interim, sources indicate that brewers will attempt to continue to negotiate with the commission in pursuit of a more favorable determination on SB 424.

One thing that is clear is the state's brewers felt assured by-the-glass sales would be cleared by ABLE. Several brewers had planned elaborate celebration events for Aug. 26; some of them have even begun morphing their business plans to cater to the new law. The announcement from Choc/Prairie of a new brewpub in Automobile Alley is just one example.

The fate of those events and those plans now seems up in the air.

(Blogger's note: I will update this post as more reaction/information becomes available.)


The Craft Brewers Association of Oklahoma this evening released the following statement on the ABLE/SB 424 situation:

"We are disappointed in today's restrictive informal interpretation by the ABLE Commission relying on the Attorney General's office. The interpretation allows for brewers to sell 'to-go' beer only. 'To-go' beer can be packaged in growlers, six packs, and other original brewery packaging. Brewers will not be permitted to sell beer for consumption on premises, missing the original intent of SB 424 as passed by lawmakers."

Meanwhile, state lawmakers have also weighed in. State Rep. Emily Virgin responded to the controversy on Twitter today, saying "Incredibly disappointing development. Legislative intent to allow on-site consumption has always been clear."

And state Rep. Jason Dunnington said this on Twitter: "Looking into it. Fact is whatever the case we can adjust it legislatively."

Coincidentally, ABLE has a regularly scheduled meeting set for 10 a.m. Friday morning, at 3812 N Santa Fe, Suite 200. Representatives of the CBAO will be in attendance and will continue to attempt to work with ABLE toward a positive resolution.

You can see the agenda for the meeting here. Included are discussion points on State Question 792, Senate Bill 383, and "Discussion on Amendment to Title 37, Section 521(A)." In case you were wondering, Title 37, Section 521(A) is the same thing as SB 424. (Why did they not just call it SB 424 on the agenda?)

There's also a public comment period -- with a three-minute time limit -- so if you attend the meeting and line up to speak, keep it short and keep it classy.

So after a wild day, where do we go from here? Remember, brewers should still be able to sell bottles and cans (and growlers) from the brewery on Aug. 26, so Roughtail's plans for special can releases and American Solera's plans for special bottle release should proceed.

I have not received information on what will happen with all the taproom parties the breweries have scheduled. I think we'll need to wait on tomorrow's meeting, and then the brewers will likely have announcements to make.

One key thing to remember, meanwhile, is that SB 424 was never intended to be the cure for all that ails the state's craft brewers. It was only intended to bridge the gap until voters could (potentially) approve SQ 792, activate SB 383 and move Oklahoma into the post-Prohibition era come October 2018.

(And also remember what Dunnington said; legislators could attempt to make this right next spring in the 2017 legislative session.)

So, while a disruption of the intent of SB 424 is highly discouraging for the brewers, the move by ABLE is not the end of our craft beer industry.

It is disappointing because the brewers clearly were given the impression from ABLE that by-the-glass sales would be allowed, only to see the rug pulled out after they had started making plans and actually enacting business development.

And also disappointing because it could take an industry on the verge of massive development, and set it back by two years.


  1. What a joke, but can't say I'm surprised.

  2. this state is such a fucking joke - jesus and corruption - can the god damn baby boomers die off already

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Uh, I'm one of those dying baby boomers. Believe me, there are a lot of ignorant, Okie public school-"educated" millennials who are a LOT worse than any baby boomers that I know. (Of course, none of my baby boomer FRIENDS are from Okiehomo.)

    3. I lucked out with Gen X - so just heroin and D&D for me!

    4. and yes - gawd help us all when cell phones stop working and millennials are left with nothing to do!

  3. A very general statement if I ever heard one. Just stop.

  4. A very general statement if I ever heard one. Just stop.

    1. Look! You can't even reply correctly without duplicating a post!

      go to sleep already!

  5. I guess we've finally figured out what the ABLE commission is for. It's not for public safety but it's here to hinder local business. Also to raise as much fine money as possible to hire more agents to hinder even more businesses. This is a joke and as two faced as they come. It's worse than the whole infused liquor fiasco the morons tried to make some dough off of. I'd like to say I'm shocked but figured this would happen.

  6. They say that the bill does not allow for sale by the glass. Two points to make. 1. Liqueur by the drink was passed in 1985 and it covers how liquor can be sold in the state. SB 424 passed by the people allows for the sale it does not speak too amending the standing Liquor by the drink law passed by the people in 1985. 2. All throughout the SV 424 it mentions either "samples" or "samples and sales". Which in the case of a bottled or caned beverage can only mean either using an entire 12 oz. can or bottle or by way of using a glass to be serve a small part or quantity intended to show what the whole is like. Which is the actual definition of a sample. In the case of wine it is for sale in 25.36 oz. bottles so it could only be sampled in a glass because of the 12 oz. limit imposed by SB 424.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. The more I think of it the distributors have to be paying ABLE to all of a sudden change their mind on this interpretation of SB424. Really think ABLE needs to be investigated. Saying the law is vague is a pretty big cop out too. I'm not sure how else to interpret it.

  9. Boomers are generally much more amenable to reforms of alcohol laws generally, but when it comes to cannabis, sigh...

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