Change is hard. It is especially hard when your business model has been based on a law that gave you an advantage is changed to eliminate that advantage. In Oklahoma (and Colorado), state laws have been changed to allow all stores with licenses to sell beer and wine to sell beer and wine over 3.2% ABV. That means every Wal-Mart, grocery store, and convenience store in Oklahoma can sell pretty much anything besides liquor. Now, bottle shops all over Oklahoma are going to have to rethink their business strategy.
Until this law, to buy real beer in Oklahoma you had to go to your local bottle shop. Now, you will be able to buy a six-pack cheaper and more conveniently at a grocery store or Wal-Mart when you are doing your regular shopping. That is a boon for shoppers, but the bottle shop owners are going to take a hit. So, they are planning to sue the state in federal court.
The Retail Liquor Association who is suing on behalf of its members is not trying to get the law completely overturned. They understand that the sentiment behind the law’s passing, but they want to change some aspects of it.
I don’t know what I think of this. You have a new law that makes sense replacing an old law that stopped making sense as the craft beer world progressed. That old law gave an advantage to a certain group of businesses who thrived under its growing inadequacy. To suddenly take away that advantage is a shock to the system and requires a lot of hard choices in the immediate future for many of these businesses. In Colorado where a similar law was passed, lawmakers included a 20-year phase in plan to ease the change.
The law needed to change, but the Retail Liquor Association was probably dealing from a position of weakness in whatever negotiations went on last year. I’m sure the politicians looked at the polls which told them of the overwhelming support the proposed law had and I’m sure Wal-Mart, Target, and all the grocery stores were in the politician’s ears further encouraging the proposed law. That and they were probably just in meetings setting stacks of $100s on the table as part of the negotiation (I’m sure only in a metaphorical sense).
Honestly, in these cases, there are no perfect solutions. Someone was getting screwed by this vote. Either the big box retailers that could only sell 3.2 beer or bottle shops that will now have to compete with them. My advice for the bottle shops study states where similar laws have been in existence for a long time to find out how bottle shops there operate and distinguish themselves. The answer is probably to be the boutique alternative and be the experts that help customers so that they come back repeatedly and bring friends.