State

Two Kansas counties approve liquor by the drink

Clark County residents approved the sale of liquor by the drink three decades after many of their fellow Kansans had already done so. The issue passed 635 to 330.
Clark County residents approved the sale of liquor by the drink three decades after many of their fellow Kansans had already done so. The issue passed 635 to 330. File photo

And now, there are eight counties.

On Tuesday, Clark County residents approved the sale of liquor by the drink three decades after many of their fellow Kansans had already done so. The issue passed 635 to 330. Stafford County residents did the same, 1,304 to 535.

The Kansas counties became the 96th and 97th of the 105 counties in Kansas to have liquor by the drink.

For the 2,200 residents living in Clark County, passage of liquor by the drink was an economic issue.

Restaurants in our town and countywide have struggled with liquor laws – especially since someone from out-of-town couldn’t go to a restaurant and buy a drink without having a club membership. We thought it would be more inviting to remove the barrier.

Kelly McCarty, board member of Ashland 2020, Inc.

“Like a lot of rural counties, we faced a decline in population,” said Kelly McCarty, a board member of Ashland 2020, an economic development committee. “To help our town curb some of the decline, we focus on economic development.

“Restaurants in our town and countywide have struggled with liquor laws – especially since someone from out-of-town couldn’t go to a restaurant and buy a drink without having a club membership. We thought it would be more inviting to remove the barrier.”

McCarty said a wind farm is currently being constructed in the county and rather than have workers travel to Dodge City in Ford County for dinner and drinks, Clark County residents wanted to make the county more inviting.

“Changing this law was a small step to help the community,” she said. “Every little bit helps.”

Tug-of-war with alcohol

Kansas was the first state to pass a constitutional amendment forbidding the sale and production of intoxicating liquors.

Kansas had prohibition from 1881 to 1948 – longer than any other state – and continued to prohibit liquor by the drink in bars and restaurants until 1986. That year, the Kansas Constitution was amended to allow the sale of liquor by the individual drink and counties could decide whether to remain “dry” or “wet.”

According to a map put together by the Kansas Department of Revenue, only eight counties of 105 in Kansas remain dry: Meade, Gray, Haskell, Stanton, Wallace, Sheridan, Jewell and Clay.

In a small community, everybody knows everyone else,” she said. “Now, recently we had a vote for a new hospital and compared to that? This was a cake walk.

Kelly McCarty, board member of Ashland 2020, Inc.

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner

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