We often get asked if someone with a felony conviction can get an Oklahoma Liquor License.
The short answer: Yes, a convicted felon can get an Oklahoma Liquor License if (1) they have no violent felony convictions; (2) they have no 37A convictions; and (3) it has been at least five years since their last felony conviction (i.e., you pled at least five years ago). People who don't meet those requirements are still required to get a pardon from the Governor (which we do all the time - call us).
PLEASE NOTE: this post applies to "employee licenses", which are the normal sort of liquor license that lets you serve beer and wine as a bartender or a waiter. A person who owns a liquor store or an alcohol manufacturing establishment has a totally different set of requirements, which are outside of the scope of this post.
The long answer is that the felony prohibition on liquor licenses was, surprisingly, baked into the Oklahoma Constitution in 1907. Article 28, Section 10, which is now Article 28A, Section 4(E), explicitly states that:
E. The State of Oklahoma shall not issue a [liquor] license to any person who has been convicted of a felony, or to any entity if any individual, partner, director or officer who maintains an ownership interest in the entity, has been convicted of a felony, unless otherwise provided by law.
The fun part is where it says
unless otherwise provided by law. In 2018, the Legislature used this provision to allow felons to receive an employee liquor license when they enacted 37 O.S. §2-148(D)(2), which states:
D. ... 2. ... Provided, an employee license may be issued and held by a person who has been convicted of a felony if such conviction was not for an offense specified in paragraph 2 of Section 571 of Title 57 of the Oklahoma Statutes or an offense under the provisions of this title, and if such conviction was more than five (5) years prior to the issuance of the license;
As stated above, now, convicted felons can get a liquor license if (1) the conviction/plea occurred more than five years ago, and (2) the felony was non-violent and was not a 37A felony.
If you are curious about the violent crime side of things, you can review Title 57, Section 571 to see the list of violent felonies in Oklahoma that will disqualify you. Title 37A contains, essentially, all of the laws governing alcohol and alcohol licenses in Oklahoma, and so it is a bit harder to read, but it can be perused here.
It only took us 111 years to get right on this issue. In any case, it's nice to see the Oklahoma Legislature making decisions that are smart on crime, and make life for ex-felons a little bit easier.
Thanks for reading,