Updated July 2017
Although prohibition was repealed across country in 1933, Oklahoma apparently did not get the memo and was one of several states that never ratified the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution. Oklahoma did not allow alcohol sales until 1959, and only then with strict limitations. Serving individual drinks in restaurants was banned until 1984.
Even today, Oklahoma is reported to have some of the strictest laws in the country concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages. The legislature is trying, to change that. Oklahoma is one of only five states that still sells beer with only a 3.2 percent alcohol content by weight. This beer can be sold cold in grocery, liquor or convenience stores. Beer with higher alcohol content by weight is referred to as high-point beer. Wine and high-point beer can only be sold in liquor stores and both must be stored and sold at room temperature, however changes will be coming October 1st, 2018 (see below).
Whether or not you can have a glass of wine or a cold beer with dinner at a restaurant on any day of the week depends on the county in which you are dining. In Oklahoma, there are still 20 counties that restrict selling any liquor by the drink. In the counties that do allow liquor to be sold at bars and restaurants by the individual drink, some establishments still will not sell it to you on Sunday or certain holidays.
In addition to the restrictions on when and where you can buy beer or wine in its container, and whether or not it can be sold cold or at room temperature, there are restrictions on when these items can be sold. For example, on Sunday, bottled or canned high-point beer and wine can never be sold anywhere by any retailer in the state. Sales are also prohibited on some holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Changes Coming in October 2018In November of 2016 Oklahomans voted to change some of the state’s strict liquor laws. State Question 792 began the push for modernization and will allow for wine and high-point beer to be sold in grocery stores and convenience stores. Also, stores will be allowed to refrigerate the high-point beer and sell it cold for the first time in Oklahoma.
After Oklahomans said yes to SQ 792 several more bills passed through the state legislature and were voted into law by the elected officials during the 2017 legislative session.
Senate Bill 411 extended operating hours for the tap rooms at Oklahoma’s breweries. Before the passage of the bill tap rooms were required to close at 9 p.m., but afterward they will be allowed to stay open and serve beer until 2 a.m. like bars and restaurants. It also extended liquor store hours and they will open at 8 a.m. instead of at 10 a.m.
Senate Bill 211 will allow the citizens of each county to vote whether or not they want liquor stores to be allowed to open on Sundays. The county commissioner will be allowed to set the date for the vote or a petition with signatures from 15 percent of the county’s population will also initiate a voting date in that county.
House Bill 2186 made it legal for movie theaters to sell low-point beer to patrons starting in October of 2018. The language of the bill requires patrons to show valid identification for proof of legal age and then consent to a hand stamp or wear a bracelet while consuming alcohol in the establishment.
Working together these measures are going to help bring a more modern approach to selling and buying alcohol in Oklahoma.
Looking for More Changes in the Future
There are many groups still working hard to further modernize Oklahoma’s alcohol laws. There may not be bills announced for the 2018 legislative session – but at least one topic had been mentioned for consideration.
There has been discussion about making it legal for parents to bring their children into the liquor store with them. Since wine and high-point beer will be available in the convenience and grocery stores where children are allowed, it has been mentioned parents should be able to bring their children into liquor stores instead of having to make other arrangements.