WAURIKA (AP) — Waurika Chamber of Commerce member Jessica Coody is worried about the county’s businesses.
The county doesn’t allow liquor-by-the-drink sales, so establishments have to sell low-point beer. At Waurika’s annual Rattlesnake Festival, the fire department’s fundraiser is selling beer.
But on Oct. 1, 2018, only high-point beer will be available in Oklahoma. Jefferson and 17 other counties that do not allow liquor-by-the-drink sales will no longer be able to sell beer.
Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission Director A. Keith Burt said the agency has heard also from Harper, Ellis and Caddo counties about how to allow liquor-by-the-drink.
“There certainly seems to be an uptick in interest in getting liquor-by-the-drink in some counties,” Burt said. “I think everyone sees October 1, 2018, coming and they’re trying to prepare for it.”
The Journal Record reports that the Jefferson County line borders the Red River and stretches north to Waurika Lake.
“Our county receives $100,000 annually in alcohol sales tax,” Coody said. “We would lose a large chunk of that.”
Jefferson County will vote on liquor-by-the-drink on Sept. 12. The special election has been paid for by area business owners who would lose customers if their beer was gone.
Coody said she doesn’t think allowing liquor-by-the-drink will change the area too much. The main concern is keeping the existing businesses flourishing.
“What we’re trying to focus on is the economic impact of it,” she said. “People will drive across the river if they can’t have a beer with their meal. Most restaurants won’t apply for a full liquor license. They just want to be able to sell beer.”
She and Jefferson County business owners will soon start knocking on doors to get the word out about why people should support the effort. If the vote fails, the county will have to wait another two years before the question can be on the ballot. By then, new laws would already be in place.
Jefferson County’s western neighbor, Cotton County, tried to get liquor-by-the-drink in November 2016, but the measure failed.
Caddo County Clerk Patrice Dolch said there’s only been discussion within the county commission about putting liquor-by-the-drink on the ballot. No formal action has been taken, she said.
“There are casinos and different places that thought it would bring in revenue,” she said. “But there was concern it would cause the jail to fill up quicker.”
Commissioner Randy McLemore said Anadarko City Councilman Jeffrey Jason “J.J.” Vance approached the commission about liquor-by-the-drink sales a couple of months ago. Vance was arrested on Thursday for allegedly driving under the influence.
McLemore laughed about the irony.
But he said the commission has heard from Hinton leaders who would like to see the measure on a county ballot as well.
“Several business owners were concerned that if it didn’t pass it would hurt them,” he said.
He said commissioners Benny Bowling and Brent Kinder expressed uneasiness with it. The discussion mentioned the older constituents being against the idea, McLemore said.
“I can see both sides of it,” he said. “I don’t drink. I can get in enough trouble sober.”