Liquor law changes spark battle for business

LENEXA, Kan. - Kansas lawmakers are considering two laws that will change the way people buy liquor across the state.

Kansas liquor store owners said they'll lose lots of business if lawmakers allow grocery stores to carry the hard stuff.

"That bill is a small business killer. Even the proponents of the law admit will put half the liquor stores out of business," said Marshall Rimann. He has sold alcohol in Johnson County for nearly 30 years and now has a store in Lenexa and another in Prairie Village.

Right now Kansas grocery stores carry only 3.2 beer, no hard alcohol.

A Hy-Vee store manager in Shawnee, Susan Jones, calls that an "antiquated law".

Jones said selling booze would bring in so much business that her store would build a 30,000 square foot addition for the liquor department.

That would be bigger than the size of the pharmacy and floral areas put together.

"There are also many, many consumers that would prefer to be able to come to the grocery store, or the convenience store, and be able to buy their own hard liquor, or wine," said Jones.

A liquor store lobbyist warns the law could increase sales to minors because underage grocery clerks would be able to ring up alcohol.

Spencer Duncan of Kansas Families Against Liberal Liquor Laws, said, "It's not unbelievable to think that 19-year-old college kids on a Friday night are gonna sell to other 19-year-old college kids on a Friday night before a party."

Jones, the store manager, responded, "Absolutely not. Our register system flashes and we have to ID the consumer, whether they are 14 years of age or 94 years of age."

A second bill would allow liquor stores to hold tastings inside their stores.... and that seems more likely to pass more easily.

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