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Legislation aimed at boosting golf course beer sales

 The Journal Record | January 8, 2019

Since Oct. 1, Peoria Ridge Golf Course General Manager Nate Benedict said he’s seen a decline in beer sales and an increase in brews being sneaked onto the course in Miami.

State Sen. Michael Bergstrom, R-Adair, has filed Senate Bill 114 as one solution for golf courses and their challenges under the new alcohol laws.

City of Oklahoma City spokeswoman Kristy Yager said the city is working with the city of Tulsa and the Oklahoma Municipal League on another golf course bill, which will be filed by state Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City.

Benedict said players are able to buy only two beers at a time, so sales have dropped since they could buy a six-pack previously. The beer also has an additional 13.5 percent excise tax, which wasn’t placed on low-point beer.

“Because of the higher prices and the ability to not get as much (beer) as they want, they’re bringing what they want on the golf course,” Benedict said. “It’s creating a control problem for us.”

When the new alcohol laws went into place, golf course operators were left in a gray area because they previously sold low-point beer. They did not need a special license for those sales.

But the license requirement changed when high-point beer became the new norm, so courses had to apply for licenses.

Yet, under the new law, municipalities could not apply for beer and wine licenses. Peoria Ridge is owned and operated by the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, so Benedict had a liquor license for the course.

The new laws had licenses for off-premises consumption like a retailer and on-premises consumption like a restaurant, but golf courses had been operating like both. They could sell six-packs of beers to players to take on the course and traverse the course with a beer cart. They also sold beer for drinking inside their buildings.

SB 114 would allow golf course operators and marinas to sell beer or wine from an on-premises retail store. But the golf course/marina license could be sought only by a course with an on-premises restaurant that also has a mixed-beverage license or a mixed-beverage caterer license. The bill would allow the alcohol that’s purchased to be consumed on the course or the waterway near the marina.

The on-premises restaurant could not sell alcohol to be consumed outside the eatery, and the retail store could not sell alcohol to be consumed inside the restaurant, as outlined in the bill.

Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission Deputy Director Steven Barker said when he read the bill, he noticed that there’s no licensing fee or details on how that fee money will be distributed.

A mixed-beverage license costs $1,525.

He said the restaurant requirement also stood out to him since not all municipally operated golf courses have restaurants.

In addition, the bill has a requirement that the course has to be rated by at least one professional or national golf association.

The bill has a July 1, 2019 effective date with an emergency clause. Barker said that would be a short turnaround time to get the licenses created and issued, but ABLE and the Office of Management and Enterprise Services could get it done.

The bill does not have language addressing issuing golf course or marina licenses for municipalities.

In Tulsa County, LaFortune and South Lakes Golf Director Pat McCrate said the county had to scramble to sell alcohol for tournaments booked after Oct. 1. The county couldn’t apply for the beer and wine licenses.

Tulsa County hired a private catering company to sell alcohol at the courses.

“Not only has it cost us revenue, it’s been a burden to sell beer,” McCrate said.

He said when it’s a nice day, it’s hard to accommodate all the customers who want beer. The caterer stays in the clubhouse to sell it, but people on the course want more beer and they likely won’t come back to buy it. If the caterer leaves, then there’s no one at the clubhouse to sell it to new players.

The caterer is scheduled to be at LaFortune regularly, but it’s not the best solution, he said. During the winter months, there are days when the course will have 25 people pay green fees and have only three beers sold.

“It actually costs us money to sell alcohol,” McCrate said.

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