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Half of Oklahoma counties still "dry".

AP -- It's been almost 20 years since Oklahomans gave counties the option of allowing liquor by the drink, but almost half of Oklahoma's 77 counties remain dry.

Voters in Blaine County will revisit the issue on Dec. 9 when they go to the polls to decide whether to allow liquor by the drink. Residents have voted no twice before.

Liquor by the drink laws allow the sale of hard liquor at restaurants and bars if those establishments receive licenses from the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission.

County Commissioner Farrol Boyd said authorities called for the vote at the urging of supporters of Roman Nose State Park. The park's lodge is the only state-run lodge in a dry county, meaning guests can't have so much as a glass of wine with dinner, manager Mark Villarreal said.

'Former Watonga Mayor Tony Kohl said surrounding counties that allow liquor by the drink have grown in population." If we're going to survive in Western Oklahoma we've got to cultivate the tourism," Kohl said.

The vote could be close, judging from results of a 1996 election on the issue. That year, 2,008 voted yes, and 2,548 voted no.

Watonga's ministerial alliance--a group of local church leaders--opposes the proposal.

Although liquor by the drink is not allowed, the county has bottle clubs where patrons bring their own. The county also has beer bars, Kohl said.

In September 1985, the state passed the liquor by the drink law and most counties followed suit within the next few years. Forty counties have voted yes, while 37 do not allow the sale of liquor by the drink. Twenty-five of those 37 have never voted, said Keith Burt, ABLE Commission director.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 5, 2004
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