Wineries Celebrate Passage of SQ 743

Bright and early on the morning of Monday, Nov. 10, Andrew Snyder was in line at the Oklahoma ABLE Commission headquarters to get his license to self-distribute wine. He self-delivered his first cases of wine to liquor stores the same day.
SQ 743, approved by 80 percent of voters in the Nov. 4 election, enables wineries producing fewer than 10,000 gallons per year — an output level that describes 50 of Oklahoma’s 52 wineries, including Snyder’s Sand Hill Vineyards in Geary — to sell directly to restaurants and liquor stores. Before SQ 743, Oklahoma-produced wines could be sold only at the wineries or at certain festivals without having to go through a liquor wholesaler.
“I think the passage by such a large margin is really a mandate of the people to the legislature that they want the industry to survive,” said Bob McBratney, proprietor of Stone Bluff Cellars near Haskell.
The Oklahoma Grape Growers and Wine Makers Association, a consortium of the state’s vineyards and wineries, has been working for a number of years to pass a measure like SQ 743. While Synder, who serves as the 2008 board president of the organization, owes the breakthrough to OGGWMA lobbyists McSpadden & Associates and the co-authors of the referendum, Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague, and Sen. Tom Ivester, D-Sayre. Snyder spent 45 hours at the capital during the past session himself. “Through the negotiations we had with the lobbyists for the wholesalers, we found some middle ground that we could, well, not disagree on,” Snyder said. “We were able to come up with some numbers that didn’t spell out the demise of the three-tier system in the eyes of the wholesalers, and it allowed us to get our foot in the door and to be able to self-distribute wine.”
Points of contention during the negotiations included the gallon limit, which the distributor lobby wanted to cut to 5,000, and the type of vehicle used by wineries to market and distribute. Language in SQ 743 dictates that winery operators must own or lease the vehicle used for distribution and may not use a common carrier.
“That’s certainly restrictive, but it’s the same rules the distributors play by,” Snyder said. “We were asking, in effect, to be de facto wholesalers. If the wholesaler has to own the vehicle they use to deliver, we have to do the same.”
Since Oklahoma wineries now have the choice to stick with distributors or take up distribution on their own, “we’ve had several wineries, including Stone Bluff, Grape Ranch (south of Okemah) and Tidal School Vineyards (of Drumright) contact us to confirm that they want to continue to use a distributor,” said J.B. Jarboe, partner at liquor wholesaler Jarboe Sales. “We’re dealing with the wineries one at a time as they make up their minds.”
“A winery the size of Tidal School really does rely on the wholesale system,” Snyder said. “They produce more wine than they could self-distribute economically. The small, boutique Oklahoma winery really does need to be able to self-market and self-distribute. It’s going to be a great benefit to those wineries.”
Life on the other side of the enacted SQ 743 is “well underway,” Snyder said. Thanks to the ABLE Commission’s waiver of its 45-day price posting rule, wineries don’t have to wait until January to start self-distribution.
“We’re able to take advantage of the holiday season,” Snyder said. “The liquor store owners I’m talking to tell me that if I waited to show up until the second of Jan., they would tell me to come back in March. That’s the slowest sales season for spirits and wine. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s – this is the biggest season.”
Steven Howard, principal at Brookside and downtown chocolate shop KoKoa Chocolatier, has opened his newest location in Utica Square. The 3,000-SF storefront opened Nov. 15 under a two-month lease.
“We might be there permanently, but that has not been decided. We’ll just go from here,” he said.
Howard would not substantiate rumors of a consolidation of KoKoa locations, but he did say the Utica Square holiday foot traffic is just what his business needs.
“Brookside is great, but it doesn’t have the foot traffic that Utica Square does,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
Leadership at Tulsa tradition Full Moon Caf√? gave thanks for more than a 20-pound stuffed bird last month as it celebrated 20 years in business at 1525 E. 15th St. The Full Moon Caf√? serves up the likes of its “world famous” tortilla soup, fresh-ground hamburgers, salads, and its Chicken Margarita during lunch and dinner seven days a week.
The caf√?, founded by Hal Walker and Greg McGill, sold to entrepreneur Tony Henry in December 1999. Henry added another location at the Creek Nation Casino in May 2006.

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