Will Rogers once famously said, “Oklahomans will vote dry as long as they can stagger to the polls.”
We voted pretty much dry until 1959 when we repealed prohibition. Then, with the 28th amendment to the state’s constitution we created the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission.
If you have worked in a restaurant with a bar in Oklahoma, you know exactly what the ABLE Commission is.
It’s the state agency that takes $30 from you every two years so that you’re licensed to give booze to thirsty clientele (among other things).
I worked as a bartender for some time while I was in college, so I had some experience with the commission going into this story. Therefore, I was not surprised to see that nearly 50,000 of the approximately 56,000 active licenses in the state were held by employees of establishments selling alcohol.
That’s a lot of jobs and a lot of licenses.
Every single bartender or server with one of these licenses knows that you can’t 1) sell alcohol to customers without one and 2) it can be taken away from you or not issued for reasons including DUI convictions and selling alcohol to minors.
When your livelihood is dependent upon that ABLE Commission license, you do whatever you can to make sure it can’t get taken away. This includes cutting off intoxicated customers, making sure to check the ID of each person being served, and ratting out other restaurants or license holders who aren’t abiding by the law.
It’s not a slam dunk, but it’s something.
There won’t ever be enough police officers to catch every single crime, but the self-policing the licenses encourage makes them a valuable tool; one that could be extended even further to include alcohol training seminars for sellers and servers.
If we’re going to be wet, we might as well be as smart as possible about it.