Oklahoma bill would leave Sunday liquor decision to counties

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Legislation in the Oklahoma Senate would allow voters in each of the state’s 77 counties to decide whether liquor can be sold on Sunday.

The bill by Sen Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, would allow voters to decide on a county-by-county basis whether liquor stores can open between noon and midnight on Sundays, beginning in 2018, The Oklahoman reported Sunday. Under current law, liquor stores are required to close on Sundays.

The bill would allow county commissioners to schedule elections, or residents could start petition efforts to get a measure on the ballot.

Liquor stores had hoped Sunday sales would be part of an overhaul of Oklahoma’s alcohol laws that Bice helped lead last year, but the language didn’t make it into the bill’s final version.

The measure is among several alcohol-related bills under consideration by Oklahoma lawmakers this year.

Bryan Kerr, president of the Oklahoma Retail Liquor Association and owner of Moore Liquor in Moore, said Sunday sales would help package stores compete with grocery and convenience stores once they can begin selling wine and full-strength beer in 2018.

“It would level the playing field a little for me,” Kerr said. “It’s just another piece of making things at least a little closer to fair if and when grocery and convenience stores begin selling wine and beer.”

Bice said the bill would allow county voters to make up their own minds on the issue. There are still 18 counties in Oklahoma that are “dry,” only allowing low-point beer sales in bars and restaurants.

“There may be some counties that are still uncomfortable with the idea of a liquor store open on Sunday and this gives local control back to them to make those decisions,” Bice said.

The Legislature is considering dozens of alcohol-related bills in the wake of the alcohol modernization measure, State Question 792, which voters passed in November. Among them are at least three proposals to allow movie theaters to sell alcohol in some form.

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