Oklahoma Liquor Wholesalers Fight Against Voters

Taste the Wine
Taste the Wine,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.

Fearing that California mega-producers like Gallo might be crushed by competition from tiny family wineries in Oklahoma, Jarboe Sales Company, Action Wholesale Liquors and Central Liquor are going to court! These three Oklahoma-based liquor wholesalers are challenging the law that allows state winemakers to sell their wares directly to liquor stores and restaurants, a provision overwhelmingly approved by state voters in 2000. In fact, more Oklahoma folks voted in favor of SQ 688 than voted for George Bush in 2000.

Apparently, fair competition is now important to them...as long as it doesn't put their monopoly at risk.

For the last seven years, U.S. liquor wholesalers have ignored Oklahoma's wineries, hoping that they would 'die on the vine'. Their lawsuit contends that the 2000 Oklahoma wine law is unconstitutional because it discriminates against out-of-state winemakers, who still must rely on wholesalers to distribute their wine (as if they would be driving wine to Oklahoma one case of Thunderbird at a time). State officials maintain the Oklahoma law is valid.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot began to hear arguments in the case Monday at the University of Oklahoma Law School. Oklahoma's family winemakers are not a party to the lawsuit, however they do have a large stake in the outcome.

Gary Butler, president of the Oklahoma Grape Growers and Wine Makers Association, said the state's nascent wine industry would be crippled if the wholesalers' lawsuit is successful.

Butler said State Question 688, which allowed Oklahoma wineries to sell their wine outside their on-site tasting rooms, was a boon to the industry. There were only three Oklahoma wineries in 2000. Butler said he expects there to be 40 licensed wineries by the end of the year. Visitors to our winery blog may have noticed the growing list of Oklahoma winery websites we link to. A few are even kind enough to link back to us!

The trickle down effect of the boom in new Oklahoma winery openings has brought added profits to a long list of other Oklahoma businesses like: web designers, artists, musicians, printers, signmakers, bottle manufacturers, farm supply businesses, realtors, landscapers, tour guides and much more.

The wholesale liquor distributors are fighting to ensure that the only alcohol related jobs that survive in Oklahoma are that of liquor store clerk and truck driver.

No comments: