Friday, July 6, 2007

Well, It's About Time

An attempt to put Sunday alcohol sales at liquor and convenience stores to a citywide vote failed Thursday, allowing dozens of Wichita stores to immediately start selling all week long.

Alcohol sales will now be legal from noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays and many legal holidays. Stores still cannot sell on Easter, Christmas or Thanksgiving.

For many liquor stores, that will mean hiring extra workers to cover more shifts because owners feel they have to be open when their competition is.

But some also hope it will mean more sales and fewer people driving outside the city limits to spend money on Sunday suds.

"It's good for the customers, it's good for Wichita," said Ron Groves, a vocal proponent of Sunday sales and owner of Groves Discount Wine & Liquor.

Sedgwick County elections officials rejected 40 percent of the 8,171 petition signatures that Sunday sales opponent Wade Moore submitted.

Moore, the pastor of Christian Faith Centre, needed 6,701 valid signatures, but only 4,200 turned out to be valid. Elections Commissioner Bill Gale said the rest were from people who don't live in Wichita (including one person from Alabama), weren't registered voters or contained discrepancies between voter registration information and what was on the petition.

Although Moore voiced confidence throughout the petition drive, he said he wasn't surprised it failed in the end.

"We did everything that we were supposed to do," he said. "I just wish more people had gotten out and gotten behind it." Now that the petition is dead, some are already looking at the next step: allowing convenience stores to sell the same strength beer as liquor stores.

Convenience stores can sell only beer with a maximum alcohol content of 3.2 percent by weight. Past attempts to change that in the Legislature have failed.

Mike Thornbrugh, a spokesman for QuikTrip, said there's little difference between the 3.2 percent beer sold at gas stations and grocery stores and the domestic beers sold at liquor stores.

"It's just a great myth that everybody's bought into," he said.

The difference between convenience store beverages and those in a liquor store are almost impossible to gauge, said Phillip Bradley, executive director of the Kansas Licensed Beverage Association, a professional group composed of mostly on-premise retailers such as hotels, restaurants and bars.

While most beers' alcohol content is based on maximum percent per volume, Kansas convenience stores must get beer measured by weight.

Since alcohol content can vary and alcohol weighs less than most other substances, there's no true way to compare the two, Bradley said.

That, combined with differences in tax structures and licensing, have fatally complicated several attempts to change the law through the years.

Also, since Kansas liquor stores can't sell anything but alcoholic beverages, letting convenience stores sell the same cereal malt beverages opens the question of whether liquor stores should be able to sell other items.

"It is a terrible mess," Bradley said. "That's probably why it won't be resolved anytime soon."
I'm gonna go buy a bottle of wine on Sunday, just so I can say I did. I will never get these crazy liquor laws. Makes me think fondly of buying dinner ingredients at the grocery store and picking up a bottle of wine at the same time. Gasp! Or when Martine and I would swing by Safeway, unable to pay our bills, but perfectly capable of buying a six pack of Smirnoff Ice and frozen chimichangas (ahh... those were the days. Malt liquor and poverty...).

You can't legislate morality. You just can't. As soon as these crazy laws are off the books, maybe Trader Joe's will come to Wichita. And maybe I'll ride my unicorn to work and find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow... *sigh*


Erin said...

Reminds me of growing up in Atchison, Kan. and heading across the bridge to the many liquor stores after church on Sunday so Dad could get a six pack. When we moved near Wichita that was one of the biggest culture shocks - there was no bridge across the river to alcohol.

And if Trader Joes goes to Wichita before KC I will lose it.

Aaron said...

You have a unicorn?!

That is SO cool.

Anonymous said...

Shea, drop me an e-mail. I can't leave a comment on what I have to say. You'll understand.

Da Dude

Laura said...

Yeah, I don't get those crazy laws. It seems like California is the only state where you can buy liquor anywhere and anytime.

Just be glad you don't live in Utah.