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Changes help Oklahoma beer industry adapt during pandemic

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Kimberly James | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – The pandemic saw alcohol sales increase across the nation, and Oklahoma's beer industry has been no exception to this trend, a recent survey shows.

The state's beer industry continues to spur economic growth and support local communities.

"The Oklahoma beer industry supports more than 18,900 jobs, provides more than $817,563,400 in wages and benefits and pushes more than $2.9 billion back in the Oklahoma economy, according to the most recent Beer Serves America survey," Lisette Barnes, president of the Oklahoma Beer Alliance, told The Center Square. "Throughout 2020, beer sales continued to grow by more than 20% across the state."

Craft breweries, like most other retail organizations, met challenges at the beginning of the pandemic.

"The pandemic has affected our breweries just like most other businesses, closing their doors for a period of time made them switch models for getting their beer in consumers' hands," Tabbi Burwell, executive director of Oklahoma Craft Beer Association, told The Center Square. "There is a trend in business gaining traction as COVID vaccinations are becoming more readily available though, which is good for Oklahoma’s brewing industry."

The pandemic also pushed retailers to ensure consumers could purchase alcohol either through curbside sales or have it delivered. The Oklahoma Legislature adjusted alcohol purchasing laws to be more flexible for businesses so they could create a safe and comfortable experience for consumers.

"Senate Bill 1928 and House Bill 1349 allowed curbside sales, delivery and buying options of alcoholic beverages in a sealed, original container for grocery and convenience stores as well as wineries, liquor stores, restaurants and bars," Barnes said. "These laws have made it possible for retailers to do business in new ways, and they have helped many stay in business."

As the pandemic wears on, members of the Oklahoma Beer Alliance continue to donate to nonprofits and charities in the community and pledge to continue promoting common-sense laws that allow consumers to make responsible decisions.