OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma retail liquor merchants and anti-addiction groups are offering stiff resistance to a proposal that would allow grocery stores and other retailers to sell alcohol, CBS News Reports.
Oklahomans for Modern Laws filed an initiative petition that seeks a statewide vote on the proposal. It must collect 155,216 signatures from registered voters in order to place the issue on the November ballot.
Oklahoma law currently restricts the sale of wine to licensed retail package liquor stores and wineries.
Initiative 396 would create a new wine license that permits the retail sale of wine for off-premise consumption by grocery stores, superstores, supermarkets and warehouse clubs that have at least 25,000 square feet of floor space. Convenience stores would be excluded.
The initiative would apply to the 15 Oklahoma counties whose populations exceed 50,000 and would have to be approved by countywide votes. Sales would be barred on Sundays and certain holidays.
According to Lee Slater, a representative for Oklahomans for Modern Laws, the proposal would make purchasing wine more convenient for Oklahomans.
"It would let your basic soccer mom purchase a bottle of wine while she's going through the grocery store with her 6-year-old soccer player, which she can't do now," Slater said. "It's a convenience factor and to a certain extent an economic development tool. Having reasonable liquor laws is attractive when you're trying to sell the state."
Liquor retailers and two anti-addiction groups maintain increasing the availability of alcohol will lead to an increase in abuse.
"We're not advocating a return to prohibition," said Jim Priest, attorney for Fighting Addiction Through Education and the Oklahoma Prevention Policy Alliance, adding increasing the number of retail outlets will contribute to more abuse and underage drinking.
The Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma fears the law would hurt small retailers.
"It is inherently unfair to locally owned package stores located close to those grocery stores who take advantage of this new law," the organization's website states. "Competition will suffer and the consumer will be faced with fewer choices at higher prices."