State gets low AWCC score due to wine restrictions

The AWCC ranks states according to consumer-friendly laws, access to products, government control and restaurant wine. Oklahoma only scored well in the category of government control because the state does not control the retail sale of wine, giving customers “the benefits of free market competition.”

J.P. Richard, president of the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma, says the state scored poorly because the AWCC scores all states on whether or not wine is allowed in grocery and retail stores and whether or not they allow direct shipping, a practice that allows wineries to ship their products directly to consumers who purchase them over the Internet or as part of a mailing list.

“The issue of wine in grocery stores is not one that will be easily solved,” Richard says. “The problem is monolithic and would require so many changes to the system.” Direct shipping is illegal in Oklahoma, but Richard sees room for growth in that area.

“Wherever direct shipping is allowed, it still remains a very small percentage of wine sales,” he says.

Alex Kroblin, co-owner of Thirst Wine Merchants, a brokerage with offices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, says direct shipping would do very little damage to the current system.

“The statistics indicate that approximately 90% of wine that is purchased is consumed within four hours of purchase,” he says. “The overwhelming majority is wine purchased on the way home from work to be drank that evening with dinner or friends.” Kroblin points out that in states where direct shipping has been implemented, the system has not shut down. “It hasn’t ended the system, so it isn’t taking that much business away,” he says.

Opponents of direct shipping cite concerns about youth access to alcohol and lost tax revenue as reasons to keep direct shipping illegal.

Chad Alexander, a spokesperson for Central Liquor, the state’s largest wholesaler, says a federal court has already ruled that UPS Inc. and FedEx don’t have to ask for identification from anyone at the point of delivery.

“That means teenagers could use a valid credit card online to order highalcohol products like Mad Dog (MD 20/20) and the carrier would not be required to ID the teenager when the product is delivered,” he says.

State Rep. Colby Schwartz, R-Yukon, says the only staterelated legislation alive is House Joint Resolution 1015, the so-called “corkscrew bill.” The legislation would allow liquor stores to offer non-alcohol-based products like corkscrews, a practice that is currently illegal. As for direct shipping, Schwartz believes the state is close to an all-or-nothing place in terms of liquor laws.

“No one really knows when the day will come, but we’ve reached a place where it’s all-or-nothing in terms of our liquor laws,” he says. “The polling indicates that we’re not quite there yet with majority support, but it is growing.”

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