Kansas legislators are considering a bill allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell strong beer and spirits. This is at least a second go-around since lawmakers entertained a draft bill last year too. The effort is making more headway this session as members of the House Commerce, Labor and Economic committee presented a draft summary of a revised version of House Bill 2556.
The revised version includes a slower roll-out of proposed changes, as reported by Casey Hutchins with the KU Statehouse Wire Service, and includes a provision to prohibit issuance of liquor licenses to grocery and convenience stores that are within a half-mile radius of another licensee — otherwise known as today’s version of a liquor store. The radius would increase to 10 miles for stores in small rural areas. The substitute version also phases in retail liquor sales over 10 years allowing for today’s liquor stores to adapt.
A cap would be placed on the state issuing any new Class A liquor licenses beginning July 1 in the revised version of the bill. This provision would mean retailers would have to find liquor stores willing to sell their liquor store licenses to them in order to begin selling hard liquor and beer.
This certainly is a more compassionate and kinder way to deal with the issue, however, since this substitute bill also would be open to revisions, it seems certain more changes will come before a final bill is passed. Any kind of loosening of standards ought to extend both directions so liquor stores legally can sell non-liquor items too, thus making them able to more directly compete with the potential 3,000 newly competitive grocery and convenience stores.
Changing Kansas’ archaic liquor store sales model also could enable those who sell beer in Kansas to not have to provide two versions of its product — 3.2 and “hard” beer — as it still does in Kansas and three other states. Like most other free-market situations, the biggest competition will be for those items either with the highest profit margin or highest sales volume, meaning liquor stores still could have a unique market position with niche beverages, as well as having a wider brand selection.
While legislators still might not be ready to pop the cork on this legislation, it is promising to see them give due consideration to the complexity of this issue and attempt to find win-win solutions before finalizing a new law with the potentially wide scope of impact.
— Jeanny Sharp,
editor and publisher