No one-stop shops

J. Fred Fox | reporter

Hard-liquor proposal faces fierce opposition

Kansas may soon allow wine and other liquors with more than 3.2 percent alcohol to be purchased with other groceries.
Dillons and many stores across Kansas would very much like to sell more than just “3.2 beer” on their shelves. Liquor stores have their own separate market for a popular product.
Some Pittsburg State students as well would like to not have to make a separate stop at a liquor store to pick up a bottle of wine for dinner.
“I see how it could be more convenient for other people, but I don’t have a problem with the current system,” said Aaron Stonerock, student in information systems.
Miranda McCuistion, student in communications education, is ambivalent about the possible change.
“In some instances, yes, it’d be nice, but I’m a strong supporter of local businesses so it’s kind of a toss-up.” McCuistion said.
Daniel Youngers, student in plastics engineering says that Kansas is unique in its restriction on beer in grocery stores.
“I’ve been to New York, Michigan, Nebraska, and the only difference in places like that (is) grocery and liquor stores selling the same strength beer,” he said.
Jesse Hudson, manager of Pitt Discount Liquor, says that though this law seems to simply allow all forms of alcohol in grocery stores, its implications are vast. Not only are stores and government agencies affected, but so are alcohol distributors.
He says that alcohol distributors don’t currently have the means to provide products to all these new locations. It would require a substantial expansion of trucks and warehouse changes to bring the product to all the grocery stores across Kansas and that would raise prices for everyone for quite some time.
Richard Pyle, owner of Pairott Head Liquor in Pittsburg, says that it is critical for businesses like his to retain their control over the state’s hard-liquor retail market.
“This industry is almost the last of the mom and pop operations left. Our store is locally owned and operated. We use local contractors, banks, security, accountants and attorneys.”
Another obstacle is the prospect of the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control regulators suddenly having to keep track of thousands of new businesses, instead of just the roughly 750-plus small liquor stores in the state.
ABC is responsible for ensuring that stores aren’t selling to underage people.
“A minimum of 20 individuals would have to be hired to regulate the system being proposed,” said Doug Jorgensen, director of Kansas ABC in testimony before the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. These additional positions represent an approximately $1.3 million in additional cost for ABC, he says.
“It is estimated that this law could easily cause hundreds of liquor stores to close,” Hudson said. “Thus destroying thousands of jobs due to competition with Walmart and other big box stores.”
Hudson says grocery stores have no real complaint about the inability to sell harder liquor on the same floor space.
“The law allows grocery stores to have a separate, yet attached shop to sell other forms of alcohol.”
The law would, however, also allow liquor stores to expand and sell more than just alcohol. Items that would match well with their alcohol products include cups, ice and mixers.

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