Thursday, July 15, 2010

Liberalize Kansas Liquor Laws

There has been much hubbub lately about the Alcohol Beverage Control Board (ABC) this week deciding to reinterpret a rule that was passed in 1987 as part of the liquor by the drink legislation. In case you hadn't heard, the rule states that a drink's cost must be calculated based on that drink's alcohol content. The practical meaning of this is that if a 16 oz. beer costs $3 then a 32 oz. beer must cost $6. This, in effect, means buying in bulk, such as a pitcher, is not allowed to be cheaper than a single serving drink. Clearly, this is a stupid rule that needs to be revoked.

Unfortunately for Kansans, we have suffered through perhaps the worst legislative session in KS history where banning things like K2 and public smoking were much more in vogue than liberalizing Kansas' very conservative laws. I've been thinking about what I'm going to talk about when my state representative comes knocking on my door this time around and I've compiled a list of things I would like him to do when he goes back to work. And then I'm going to hose off my porch because my representative is quite the slimy specimen.

  1. Allow wine sales in grocery stores with a Commercial Malt Beverage (CMB) retail license. The CMB license is the liquor license that grocery stores have that allows them to sell 3.2 beer.
  2. Eliminate 3.2 beer. Anyone with a CMB license can sell beer of any alcohol content. The 3.2 beer law is outdated and, quite frankly, stupid.
  3. Retail liquor stores should be allowed to sell food, mixers etc. This is a little complicated because of the CMB license. There would be little effective difference between the 2 licenses and may lead the way to your local Price Chopper selling Jack Daniels in the checkout lane. But, the prohibition of corporations getting retail liquor licenses may stop many grocers from getting the retail liquor license.
  4. Allow liquor stores to have public restrooms and change trays. Those 2 things are actually illegal in KS. When I asked an ABC officer why they had the ban on bathrooms and he told me that someone could go into the restroom and put a mask on and come out and rob the store. That's the best he could come up with. But he made sure to include a condescending attitude while he told me that gem.
  5. Retail liquor stores should be allowed to be open until midnight, the same as the CMB licensees.
  6. Sale price of products should not be regulated in any way. It is currently illegal to sell below cost which makes it more difficult for retailers to get rid of excess product.
  7. Allow samples in liquor stores and on-premise stores (bars). It is much harder for new beer and wines to sell in KS because consumers aren't allowed to try samples in stores.
  8. Alcohol and drink specials should be allowed during certain hours of the day. Happy hours that discount alcohol or beer are currently against the law.
  9. Lower the legal drinking age to 18. 18 Year olds drink and they drink a lot. If they can drink legally they will be less likely to binge drink or drink high alcohol content liquors in a short amount of time which endangers them and others.
With the exception of #9, none of these changes to the laws are radical and most are just common sense. Surprisingly, the liquor store lobby is against many of these because it opens them up to competition from grocery stores. But, sold as a package of laws, there is much to love for liquor stores. I don't think any of these changes would increase irresponsible or underage drinking and if they did it would be quite marginal. 


  1. It's funny that the end result of grocery stores not being able to sell real beer, wine or liquor is that there are liquor stores all over the place in Johnson County. So what purports to be a law about decency and public safety actually makes Kansas seem a little more seedy.

  2. just copy the laws from MO, that will solve most of the problem.they will not change drinking age because of some federal subsidies are tied to this,I think I've heard something to that effect.

  3. Yes, the drinking age is or was tied to the federal highway subsidies. I think that that rule was challenged somewhere and no longer exists. But I could be completely wrong on that.

  4. You should also include making it legal to ship alcohol in from other places. This would make it easier for certain wine clubs to do door-to-door delivery, and allow people to make wine purchases online and have them delivered to their home.

    I'd like to see nationally the drinking age move to 19. I understand why we don't want 18 year olds, most of whom are still in high school, to have easy, legal access to alcohol. But at 19, I don't understand the problem.

  5. Brent, I think it is legal to ship wine in to KS now from wineries. I was going to include something allowing retail liquor stores to get beer and liquor from unaffiliated breweries or distillers (by unaffiliated I mean not affiliated with a KS distributor). But I can't figure out how that could work legally within the 3 tier system AND not rankle up the distributors. Nothing can pass without at least a little buy in from distributors.

    This is a list of low hanging fruit that should be easy to change (with the exception of the drinking age). I see your point with the 19 year old drinking age and I would be happy to see it as a compromise.

  6. KS liquor laws are at the top of my list of things that annoy me about moving from MO to KS. In regards to your 3rd point, I think it is laughable that liquor stores can't sell anything but booze. Most of liquor stores I frequent have abutting storefronts that cater to the shortfalls of their allowable inventory. "I'm sorry kind sir, you will have to purchase your evil limes and decadent tonic water separately from your two handles of Old Forester, 1/5th of absinthe and box of wine." Ridiculous.

  7. I still forget that I can buy a pint of Jack at QuikTrip in Missouri. As a lifelong Kansan, it's amazing. I still don't see how Missouri's laws hurt anyone any more than Kansas' laws.

    Sadly, I think there are more states with stupid liquor laws than not. At least in Kansas you can buy all your beverages in one (admittedly regulated) location. In Tennessee and New York, you can't buy beer in the same store where you buy wine.

    The biggest problem with legislation in this country is that there is always a lobby to protect people's business interests, even when they run in direct opposition to the general public's interests and rights.

  8. I agree. Here in Dallas I enjoyed a Chimay at Whole Foods while perusing their (limited) beer selection. A far cry from things in Wichita. Of course, KS laws are not near as bad as Oklahoma. NO cold beer at liquor stores. Only 3.2 beer (cold) at convenience/grocery stores. Iowa is like that, too, although they have booze and wine at grocery stores. As a beer drinker, however, that doesn't help me much. That said, I have a fridge full of Green Flash IPA, Hop Head Red, and Barleywine Ale that I'll be enjoying tonight!

  9. there are still dry counties in TX, i.e Irving (whatever county that is), so we are not the worst

  10. Tad, that Green Flash Hop Head Red is just fabulous. You have the advantage of decent liquor laws and enough population to justify having a distributor of almost every beer in the US. Stone and Green Flash are based in San Diego, yet they distribute to NY. Not KS or MO.

    m.v., we still have something like 25 dry counties in KS too. I actually don't begrudge counties the right to vote for something like that; I just hate that counties like that have a say in what we do in less prude areas like Kansas City.

  11. Not to mention lost revenue. I worked grave yard at a convenience store in college, and I saw a lot of Kansas IDs coming in to buy booze and smokes around midnight

  12. Actually, certain areas of Dallas, including the one I live in, are dry. Fortunately, those areas are small and near others with more liberal laws. There's a referendum this fall that aims to liberalize liquor laws in the entire city.

    One thing I wish we could get is Surly. I picked up several 4 packs when I was in MN for the 4th. Had a great time watching the Independence Day parade drinking a Coffee Bender at 10am!