Politics & Government

Brownback signs law to allow sales of strong beer in grocery stores

Moe’s Mart employee Faizul Bary stocks a cooler at the east Wichita minimart with 3.2 beer. Under a new law signed by Gov. Sam Brownback, Moe’s and other convenience and grocery stores will be able to sell stronger beer beginning in 2019. (March 16, 2016)
Moe’s Mart employee Faizul Bary stocks a cooler at the east Wichita minimart with 3.2 beer. Under a new law signed by Gov. Sam Brownback, Moe’s and other convenience and grocery stores will be able to sell stronger beer beginning in 2019. (March 16, 2016) File photo

You will be able to buy stronger beer in Dillons and QuikTrip stores in Kansas in two years.

Gov. Sam Brownback signed a new law Tuesday allowing the sale of stronger beer in grocery and convenience stores in 2019. The Legislature approved the measure earlier this month.

It’s a significant shift in the way the state regulates alcoholic beverages. The bill was touted as a compromise between big box stores and some liquor stores in response to changes in alcohol laws in neighboring Colorado and Oklahoma.

The two sides had waged nearly annual legislative battles in Topeka over various “Uncork Kansas” bills to allow the sale of strong beer and wine in more stores.

The House substitute for SB 13 will allow grocery and convenience stores to sell beer with an alcoholic content of 6 percent by volume starting in April 2019. Those stores now can sell only beer with an alcoholic content of 3.2 percent by weight.

Liquor stores will be able to sell other products such as cigarettes, lottery tickets, mixers and ice. Non-alcohol items other than tobacco and lottery tickets would be limited to 20 percent of a store’s gross sales.

Alcoholic Beverage Control would complete a report for the Legislature in 2029 on the market impact of the change.

The change does not include wine. And some Uncork Kansas advocates say they will stop pushing for major changes in alcohol regulations while they wait for the 2029 assessment.

Supporters say the changes will give customers more options and are necessary because of the dwindling national market for 3.2 percent beer.

“This legislation, for us, accomplishes what we always wanted,” said Jessica Lucas with Uncork Kansas. “Choice and convenience … are coming to Kansas.”

Lucas said it was time to update antiquated liquor laws.

Opponents say the law will move stronger beer into a less-regulated environment and lead to small liquor stores being run out of business by big corporations.

“The dominoes will really begin to fall for the small business people who have operated the small liquor stores in Kansas,” said Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita. “They will lose the majority of their beer sales, and that is what they rely upon to keep the doors open.

“That’s going to result in the diversion of alcohol to minors,” he added about the sale of stronger beer in more outlets.

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar

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