The Oregon Liquor Control Commission approved a new program March 16 that may change the way Oregon sells hard alcohol, beer and wine.  The program will allow several big grocery chains to sell hard alcohol.

The OLCC will choose four commercial retailers to sell liquor in addition to beer and wine. The test program will also allow four liquor stores in the state to sell beer and wine. Liquor stores are currently restricted solely to sell hard alcohol.

The OLCC has not yet decided which four commercial retailers and which four liquor stores will be the test subjects for the program.

Oregon is currently one of 19 states that is considered an alcoholic beverage control state. These states generally have a monopoly over retailing most alcoholic beverages. After June 1, Oregon will be one of only 16 states that controls the sale of hard alcohol.

“Existing liquor stores have expressed interest in being able to sell other items outside of hard alcohol,” said Tom Erwin, OLCC director of communications. “If they meet some of the other requirements they can apply for one of the four openings. We will see how sales work for all of these.”

Downtown Liquor Store owner Ken Hand supports the idea of having liquor stores sell beer and wine.

“I would like to expand my store into that,” Hand said. “It would only make sales go up. I don’t think the sales have been hindered by not selling these, but it would be more of a convenience for the customer.”

The OLCC intends to modernize the current hard alcohol system with these proposed changes. They want to make the alcohol distribution system more flexible by allowing larger corporations to distribute hard alcohol in addition to liquor stores.

“We currently have a store application where liquor is in a grocery store, but it’s in a controlled area. It is not out on the shelf,” Erwin said. “Under this new rule, grocery stores would apply. “

The grocery stores that would apply would have to be a grocery store in a new location, Erwin said. The OLCC wants to modernize the system in a balanced and controlled way.

“We want to make it more convenient for consumers, but maintain the balance that still exists,” Erwin said. The OLCC plans to test the program until the end of June 2013, at which point they will see if they can open it up to more stores.

University senior Megan Steindorf would like to see hard alcohol be sold in grocery stores instead of just liquor stores.

“I think it would be a lot more convenient because then I would not have to go to two different stores on my grocery shopping,” she said. “It’s really frustrating because different liquor stores close at different times on different days and you can get stuck without alcohol sometimes.”

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