Bill proposes hard liquor sales in grocery, convenience stores

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. - A new bill introduced in the Kansas House of Representatives would put customer choice at the forefront, allowing grocery and convenience stores to carry hard liquor.

"We're giving the customer choice where they can come in and pick up all their needs in one place instead of having making several trips," Kevin Osterhage, Hy-Vee's Prairie Village store director said.

If the bill passes, no new liquor licenses would be issued by the state for a decade starting this year.

During that time, there will be different phases starting this July, when current liquor stores would be allowed to sell their licenses to other retailers including grocery and convenience stores. In 2017, grocery and convenience stores would be able to sell only beer.

Three years later, in 2020, they will be able to sell wines to the mix at the same time liquor stores in turn could begin selling nonalcoholic products. And finally in 2024, grocery and convenience stores with licenses will be able to sell hard liquor.

Dawn Rattan and her employees at Village West Discount Liquors near Parallel Parkway take pride in their customer service.

"If they like a certain bottle of something or a certain thing we'll go out and find that for them," Rattan said.

Her biggest concern is that big box stores will put mom and pop liquor stores out of business.

"They can scale up and add their liquor to their big stores without adding any additional staffing," Rattan said.

The issues regarding the topic aren't new in the state; however, with changes to the latest proposed bill, there's renewed hope.

"Our hope is that it gets further down the field so to speak and we really think that this can get some traction because it's a win-win for all involved," Osterhage said.

It was only last July new liquor laws went into effect in Kansas. The laws allowed drink specials and happy hours to return. Margaritas, sangria, daiquiris and mojitos can now also be sold in pitchers; five free samples can be given out as well.

One of the next steps for this proposed bill is for it to be presented to the commerce committee. No date for a hearing has been scheduled yet.

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