Liquor store owners react to “Uncork Kansas” bill

WICHITA, Kansas — The sale of craft beer, wine and spirits in convenience and grocery stores has long been outlawed in the state of Kansas but House Bill 25-56 might change that. Still, it is something that isn’t sitting well with local liquor store owners.

Jeff Grantham has owned Central Wine and Spirits for three years. He says the proposed legislation to allow convenience and grocery stores to sell the very same products on his shelves is purely a profit tactic.

“For them, it’s about money. 100% all about money,” said Grantham.

But some grocery store officials say this is something that could have a positive impact across the state.

“It could be a store in St. John, Sterling or Great Bend that by having those extra products available, we could make our stores more viable,” said Sheila Lowrie, a spokesperson for Dillon’s.

Uncork Kansas has been the major movement behind this legislation. They’ve spent the last few years trying to get this legislation passed but to no avail. Officials with the coalition feel now is the time to change what they say are antiquated laws.

“Kansans, the message we are hearing from them is that they don’t want the government deciding anymore where we buy our beer, wine and spirits,” said Jessica Lucas, spokesperson for Uncork Kansas.

Lucas says the bill would prove to be fair for both parties involved but some liquor store owners like Grantham think otherwise.

“By their own admission they say within the first year, 50% of the liquor stores are going to go out of business,” said Grantham.

The bill is waiting to be heard by the commerce committee in Topeka before it would make its way to the house floor and senate for a vote.

If the bill passes it will go into effect on July 1. The first step in the bill would include putting a freeze on new liquor licenses for a period of ten years. When the freeze is lifted in 2024, qualified retailers could buy a Class C license legalizing the sale of beer, wine and spirits.

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