As president of the Grove Area Chamber of Commerce, I've been asked a lot of questions about the June 26 ballot question seeking to modernize liquor laws in Delaware County.
The ballot question will appear on the ballot as follows:
Shall restrictions on the retail sale of alcoholic beverages by individual drink for on-premises consumption in Delaware County, Oklahoma, on the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, and on Christmas, be removed unless prohibited by Oklahoma law.
The first question I'm usually asked is why voters need to change the law, and the second, why the Grove Area Chamber of Commerce is spearheading the campaign to modernize the county's liquor laws.
The chamber announced plans in April to take the lead on the campaign because, as the newspaper and radio ads proclaim, your YES vote is BEST FOR BUSINESS.
Current county restrictions on sale of mixed alcoholic beverages and strong beer for on-premises consumption prohibit sales on Christmas Day and prior to 1 p.m. on Sundays.
The change, while it won't impact the majority of Delaware Countians, it will have a big impact on businesses whose survival is dependent on tourism dollars.
The old law, enacted more than three decades ago, hurts our restaurants, hotels, marinas, and golf clubs as they struggle to compete with similar businesses in other areas of the state like Tulsa and Oklahoma City that don’t have those restrictions.
All we’re asking for is an even playing field for small businesses to compete, keep and add more jobs, and attract tourism and investment dollars to Delaware County.
An array of area business leaders endorsed the campaign to remove the county restrictions, stating it would put Delaware County businesses on equal footing with other areas of the state including the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas which have no such restrictions, as well as other competing tourism destinations in Missouri such as Joplin, Kansas City and Branson.
This is strictly an economic development issue for the Chamber. The Chamber’s primary function is growing our business community to bring more and better jobs, as well as keeping existing jobs, which requires increasing tourism.
Tourism dollars have the advantage of spreading the tax burden beyond our local population base. It’s just common sense to endorse this measure to give our local businesses the same competitive advantages that other, competing communities in our region have.
Frankly, I’m not sure why these restrictions were enacted back in 1985 when the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption was first legalized in Delaware County.
But they are definitely an impediment to Delaware County businesses as we compete for tourism dollars. Our neighboring counties of Mayes and Cherokee have also scheduled June 26 elections to eliminate Sunday restriction in their counties.
We have to be pro-active in support of our business community’s ability to compete, not only in Oklahoma but in this region.
In addition to the Grove Area Chamber of Commerce, the South Grand Lake Area Chamber of Commerce has also announced support for the repeal of the restrictions.
Other businesses who have joined in support of the repeal include Patricia Island Golf Club, Mulligan’s Restaurant, 1909 Restaurant, Shangri-La Golf Club & Resort, Grand Water Inspections, England Shores, England Dock Construction, Curtiss Tate’s Tire & Service of Grove and Langley, CRW Development Associates, Summit Restaurant, Eddy’s Lakeside Bar, Doc’s Bar & Grill, The Parrot Steakhouse & Grill, Big Shots, The Shebang, The Den of Uniquity, Grand Panache, Monkey Island Pub, Quarterdeck Café, Image Expo Salon & Tanning, Long Construction, Rough Water Docks, Littlefield Country Corner, Kahoot’s Country Store, The Landings Market and Grill, The Landings Marina, Shangri-La Marina, Hi-Lift Marina, Harbors View Marina, Tera Miranda Harbor, Ugly John’s Thunder Bay Marina, Nichols Marine, Grove Retail Associates LLC, Monkey Island Retail Associates LLC, Stockwell & Connor Law Firm, Grand Lake Real Estate and Re/Max Grand Lake, as well as all five area newspapers—The Grove Sun, The Grand Laker, Grand Times, The American, and The Delaware County Journal.
We hope area residents will join in, with the Chamber and area businesses, and vote Yes Is Best For Businesses, and approve the changes to the county's liquor laws.
Donnie Crain is the president of the Grove Area Chamber of Commerce. He may be reached at www.groveok.org, firstname.lastname@example.org or 918-786-9079.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does a "Yes" vote change Oklahoma state liquor laws?
No. the YES IS BEST FOR BUSINESS ballot question only impacts the sale of mixed alcoholic beverages and strong beer sold in clubs and restaurants.
A yes vote does not change the operation of package (liquor) stores. Also, convenience and grocery stores (if licensed by the State) will be able to sell strong beer and wine in their stores beginning Oct. 1, under new state laws.
Isn't there already on-premises consumption on Sundays in Delaware County?
Not until 1 p.m. the YES IS BEST FOR BUSINESS ballot question changes Delaware County liquor sales regulations to allow strong beer, wine and mixed beverages at restaurants beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays (instead of 1 p.m.) and on Christmas Day.
My family doesn't drink on Sundays or Christmas, why vote yes?
Your YES vote means restaurants and hotels can serve mixed beverages (like Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas) at Sunday brunches and on Christmas Day, which is important to restaurants, hotels and marina restaurants and clubs that serve mostly tourists.
Delaware County small business owners are only asking for the same rules enjoyed by businesses in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, northwest Arkansas, Joplin and Branson, Missouri, with whom we compete for tourism and business investment dollars.
All Delaware County businesses are asking is to have an even playing field in their efforts to attract more tourists, conventions and even locals who enjoy a leisurely Sunday brunch with their families.
Will this raise my taxes?
No, in fact, your YES vote means that, with the new business this rule change brings in, our tax burden will be shared by more people—taxes like fuel, use and sales—so we can improve services and, hopefully, increase spending on county roads and law enforcement.
What changes if I vote yes?
Under the current law, liquor (mixed beverages) may be served in bars and restaurants between 1 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Sunday, and between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m., Monday through Saturday.
Beer (up to four percent alcohol by volume) may be served between noon and 2 a.m. on Sunday, and between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m., Monday through Saturday.
The only exception is that on-premises service of alcoholic beverages above four percent alcohol by volume is prohibited on Christmas Day.
The new law, is approved by voters will allow strong beer, wine and mixed beverages at restaurants beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays (instead of 1 p.m.) and on Christmas Day.
Why the change?
The old liquor laws were written in 1984 and enacted in 1985. A lot has changed in Delaware County since then.
Your YES vote means Delaware County liquor laws will be modern and up to date with the new state liquor law that goes into effect in October.
Your YES vote will enable Delaware County small businesses to compete with Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Joplin, Northwest Arkansas and Branson for vital tourism and business investment dollars. The new law will allow restaurants and clubs to:
The ballot question does not change the law in any way concerning the sale of beverages for off-premises consumption such as sales from package stores, convenience and grocery stores or marina stores.