HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Kansas State Representative Jason Probst said the call for Sandhills Brewing to sell over $17,000 in food to meet a minimum food sales requirement for their drinking establishment license prompted him to do some research into what the statute says about the issue.
"It goes back to 1986, when Kansas decided to allow counties to have a vote on alcohol and liquor by the drink," Probst said. "At that time, each county had a choice on how it could word its issue that it put to voters. They could choose to be a wet county that allowed serving alcohol by the drink anywhere. They could be a dry county that prohibited it, or they could be a semi-dry county that required a 30% food sales to go along with the alcohol sales. Reno County in 1986 voted to have that 30% requirement."
Sandhills actually is required to have two licenses, according to Probst.
"A microbrewery is a production license that allows them to produce beer and it allows them to sell for off site consumption," Probst said. "They can sell bottles and cans and growlers, but they can't, under that license, sell anything on site. They have to get a drinking establishment license to do that. As I said, in Reno County, that comes with a 30% requirement of food sales."
So, there are multiple ways to change the law, based on which license you want changed. To change the overall drinking establishment licenses in the county requires county action.
"The only way that law can be changed is by Reno County voters," Probst said. "The county can put a resolution up to put it on the ballot and have another vote, but the county, or any other governing body doesn't have the authority to change that. Only the voters can change that law."
On the other hand, there could be some flexibility in the way microbreweries are licensed that the state level would have the ability to address, in theory.
"There are some things that I want to look at next session, as far as microbreweries are concerned, to see if we can change the way the licensing works for microbreweries," Probst said. "I think there's room. I mean, we treat wineries quite a bit differently. Wineries have a lot more flexibility in the way they are managed. I'd like to see if we could do something similar with microbreweries."
So, whether it is a county ballot measure, or state legislation, the one thing Probst doesn't want to see is no change.
"I think that we ought to attack this issue from every angle possible," Probst said. "I think that we look at the legislation. We can have a vote here in Reno County. The earliest that could happen would be next November of 2023. That doesn't address the issue for other microbreweries all over the state. If they are in a county that has the same rules or had the same election outcome on alcohol that Reno County had, they're still going to be affected by that. I think, this is a growing industry. I think there are about 66 breweries in the state. I think there's more coming on line all the time. I think we ought to do everything we can to help that business grow. They're really good in every community they are in. They turn in to kind of a gathering place."
Probst said Sandhills in particular is family friendly. He thinks the legislature has a responsibility to help those kind of businesses have the same chance to succeed as wineries and other small businesses have.