Editor's note: There was an error in a previous version of this story. The previous story mentioned how the previous law allowed sale of up to 3.2 percent alcohol by volume. It was actually 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, which equates to 3.9 percent alcohol by volume. The story has been updated to reflect this note.
The way Oklahoma consumers purchase alcohol changed Monday.
Stores can now sell beer stronger than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, which equates to 3.9 percent alcohol by volume. Bars and restaurants can begin selling at 8 a.m. rather than 10 a.m.
In 2016, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 792 with an overwhelming majority, allowing these laws to take effect.
New regulations mean some servers and bartenders find it harder to obtain licenses to sell alcoholic beverages. Olivia Craun, a server at Louie’s Bar and Grill in Stillwater, has felt the challenges of the new rules directly.
“I know now, to renew your liquor license, you have to go in and take an actual test, you can’t just renew it anymore,” Craun said. “Anyone applying for their license will have to go through a test process now instead of just filling out a form to get it, which might make things a little harder.”
Another effect of the law is smaller liquor stores will fight pricing battles with larger stores, including Walmart Inc., which previously weren’t able to sell liquor and wine. This has raised concerns for Kasey Blevins, the manager of JR’s Liquor and Wine in Stillwater.
Blevins said she worries some stores won’t be able to afford to put in refrigeration for the sale of cold beers, and that could put them out of business.
“The law says that everybody who sells alcohol has to mark it up a minimum of 6 percent," Blevins said. "The problem with that is that stores like Walmart can mark it up like that and be just fine because they make so much more profit off other products. At a liquor store, we couldn’t mark it up just 6 percent because we wouldn’t survive.”
Blevins said it wouldn’t cover the taxes she has to pay.
“Liquor stores are going to have higher prices, so that’s going to be one of our biggest cons,” Blevins said. “That’s something your everyday consumer won’t understand. They are going to walk in and see a $3-$4 price jump and think, ‘Oh, well, Walmart sells it cheaper. I may as well buy it there.’ That may put smaller stores in danger.”
Consumers can obtain alcohol more easily and cheaply. Jonathan Jones, an Oklahoma State biochemistry senior, said he feels he will save money when buying beer and other alcoholic beverages under the new regulations.
“Now that some of the larger convenience stores can sell, it will reduce the overall cost for me when buying beer, wine, or alcohol,” Jones said. “I also think it will increase drunk driving just a little bit because now you can just go to an OnCue drive-thru and get it, whereas before you couldn’t.”
Higher-point beer might lead to higher sales, but it also means stricter training for employees. Kelsey Appleyard, general manager of Hatch in Oklahoma City, has the added duty of ensuring her staff is briefed on the new woes of selling alcohol.
“Naturally, over serving is one of our main concerns," Appleyard said. "We just have to keep a watchful eye now to make sure we are not over serving our guests since it is higher point now and they can drink much earlier than before.
"Within the first day, we have seen such a difference in alcohol sales. We got a lot busier earlier. With an increase of sales, it’s an increase of tips, which puts a little more pep in people's step with wanting to work the earlier shift because now they are making more money.”