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Rep. Ajay Pittman of Oklahoma City secures bipartisan support for bottle service bill

Patrick B. McGuigan, July 10, 2021(expanded from a June 22 report

OKLAHOMA CITY (updated July 10)– A new measure allowing small businesses to offer bottle service to customers in Oklahoma — sponsored by state Rep. Ajay Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, — took effect last month without much fanfare.

House Bill 2726 quietly gathered steam in the final weeks of the recent spring session of the Legislature. 

In March, Pittman said the bill “was a request bill from many small businesses in my district and throughout Oklahoma City. What we are doing is creating parity with what other states offer and what consumers want. Economic Development was at the top of my list of priorities when we started this journey, now we can see how we can restore our business communities from multiple things that challenge their success.”

The legislation, Pittman and other advocates say, does not encourage alcohol consumption nor does it remove safeguards to limit alcohol-linked incidents.

Pittman said, “This legislation isn’t about alcohol as much as it is about helping small businesses in House District 99 and throughout Oklahoma. This legislation will add a second layer of safety for families or patrons that gather in support of our professional sports teams and other celebrations.”

As the legislation worked its way through the committee and floor consideration process, it garnered co-sponsors. In the House, state Reps. Merleyn Bell, D-Norman, and Dean Davis, R-Broken Arrow, became co-authors. The measure’s Senate author was Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City.

The measure was amended to add an emergency clause, allowing it to go into effect immediately upon final approval.

HB 2726 passed the House in April by a wide bipartisan majority.

In the end, 68 House members voted yes, with 26 opposed and seven not voting. 

On May 5, the measure sailed through the Senate 40-7, with one member not voting.

Updating June 22 story:

Through a June 23 legislative press release, Rep. Pittman was able to celebrate enactment of her proposal. “This legislation will have a positive economic impact for Oklahoma, in our major metro areas especially the businesses inin Bricktown, Chisholm Creek, Norman, Stillwater, Tulsa, and Lawton,” she said. 

“Our business owners can use all the help they can get, after having a really hard year in sales and service. I’m grateful that we were able to get this done.”

Pittman said she was “pleased with the bipartisanship work that was accomplished to get this bill passed.” Continuing, the second-term House member said, “When I ran for office, economic development for Oklahoma and my district were at the top of my priorities. I am going to continue the fight to empower our communities to grow in a way that helps business owners and their employees be competitive.”

Pittman’s co-sponsor, Sen. Coleman, released a statement saying, “Bottle service is becoming more popular in other states especially with younger people. To remain competitive, I was eager to help pass legislation allowing bottle service in Oklahoma. Our hospitality industry needs every tool in the box to help recover from the pandemic.” 

Jeff Rogers, owner of Rogers Concepts, commented, “Oklahoma has developed tremendously in so many ways. The addition of bottle service will be another step in the right direction. Not only economically, but for bars, restaurants and nightlife in general.” 

Rep. Bell, the House Democratic co-sponsor, reflected: “Bottle service provides an exciting new opportunity – not just for those who enjoy the nightlife but for local businesses as well, who will now have another way to engage their customers. It’s a win-win especially in a vibrant, college town like Norman.”

Pittman complimented the state’s Republican chief executive for supporting the measure, saying, “Governor Stitt said his goal is to ensure that Oklahoma becomes a top ten state. He took a bold step to help our economy.”

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s signature added Rep. Pittman’s revisions to the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Control Act as state law, with immediate effect.

Oklahoma state Representative Ajay Pittman, D-Oklahoma City
House Bill 2726 has amended the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, allowing small businesses to offer “bottle service” to customers in Oklahoma. The new into effect when Governor Stitt signed it in May. 
From left: Rep. Dean Davis, R-Broken Arrow; Senator Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City; and State Rep. Merleyn Bell, D-Norman. Official legislative photos