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Judge keeps ballot measure on grocery store wine sales on November ballot

An Oklahoma County District Court judge has ruled that a state question on legalizing wine and full-strength beer sales in grocery stores should remain on the November statewide ballot. 

Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons denied the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma's request for a temporary injunction to keep State Question 792 off the ballot after an hourlong hearing Monday morning.

“I believe it should go on the ballot,” Timmons said. “But I do have concerns about the constitutionality of this
measure.” 

The retail liquor group had argued that the measure should be kept off the ballot because it is unconstitutional and discriminatory, offering differing sets of laws for liquor stores and grocery stores. 

Attorney Danny Shadid, representing the liquor store owners, argued that the measure would allow liquor store owners to open only two locations and require them to be residents of the state for five years before obtaining a liquor license, but would not place any such restrictions on grocers to sell wine and full-strength beer. 

Mithun Mansinghani, deputy solicitor general for the Oklahoma attorney general's office, who argued the case on the state's behalf, said the state has a right to regulate liquor differently from beer or wine. 

“Items with a greater alcohol content pose a greater risk to the people,” Mansinghani said.

The state wants to control proliferation of liquor stores, he argued.  

Mansinghani also argued that the Retail Liquor Association plans to begin circulating its own initiative petition this week that has similar restrictions as SQ 792. 

Shadid argued that the liquor store association's initiative petition phases in changes to the system over 10 years to give liquor stores time to adjust. The initiative petition also would ban grocers from selling wine within 500 feet of an existing liquor store. 

Timmons said she still had concerns about SQ 792's constitutionality and wanted to set up a schedule for hearing arguments on the matter going forward.

“If that happens after November and it doesn't pass, then the matter may be moot,” she said.

Campaign contribution reports filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission on Saturday show the political action committee Yes on 792 Inc. had raised $100,000 in cash to promote the ballot measure by the end of June, as well as tens of thousands of dollars of in-kind contributions. 

The group Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom, backed by Walmart and several other larger retail chains including Tulsa-
based QuikTrip Corp., was the largest donor, contributing $59,589 in cash to promote the state
question.

Oklahoma City-based 7-Eleven Stores contributed a total of $25,000 cash to promote the state question.

The conservative Foundation for Economic Prosperity Inc. also donated $20,000 to Yes on
792. 

Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom made $78,972 in in-kind contributions to the campaign, which includes personnel and market research. 

Walmart also has made $45,125 in in-kind contributions to the Yes on 792 campaign, mostly in employee time, documents show. 

Bryan Kerr, president of the Retail Liquor Association, said the group would continue with its legal challenge to SQ 792.

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Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›

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