A bill that would make it easier for cities to establish outdoor drinking areas passed the Senate on Tuesday.
Senators voted 35-5 to advance House Bill 2277, after the House approved the bill in April. All south-central Kansas senators voted yes except for Larry Alley, R-Winfield, who voted no.
The bill authorizes cities to establish “common consumption areas” – or entertainment districts – where people could move around freely with their drinks.
State law now allows temporary permits for the consumption of alcohol. But common consumption areas would be in place long term. Cities would be allowed to set the time and dates when alcohol is allowed.
Supporters envision cities establishing districts that echo the Power and Light in Kansas City. There, restaurants and bars surround an open area and patrons are free to walk from spot to spot with their drinks.
“For me, it’s certainly supporting Wichita. Because Old Town, I was just there last weekend. It’s a consolidated area where people want to move about,” Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, said.
The city of Wichita has spoken in favor of the bill. Ken Evans, a spokesman for the city, said last week that the city supports the concept overall.
Wichita probably would look to create smaller districts that are not the size of Old Town, he said. He mentioned Delano and College Hill as possibilities.
Lenexa is developing a market area that would use this type of district, said Sen. Dinah Sykes, a Republican from the city.
Under the bill, someone could get a beer at a brewery, then walk to a nearby pizza joint for dinner, she said as an example.
“With this bill you will be able to enjoy time with your family,” Sykes said.
Sen. John Doll, R-Garden City, voted for the bill but expressed concerns over increasing the consumption of alcohol. Several senators responded that they did not believe it would increase consumption.
“It’s sad we have to have alcohol to enjoy ourselves,” Doll said.
Because the Senate version of the bill is slightly different from the House version, the legislation will need to go through at least one more vote in the House before it goes to Gov. Sam Brownback.