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Uncork Kansas Testifies Before Commerce Committee in Favor of HB 2556

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Uncork Kansas Testifies Before Commerce Committee in Favor of HB 2556

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Topeka, KS – Proponents for adult beverage sales in grocery and convenience stores testified before the House Commerce committee today in favor of HB 2556. Sponsored by Uncork Kansas, the bill would result in bringing free market practices to the sale of beer, wine, and spirits and give Kansans the opportunity to choose where they make these purchases.

“The economic health of Kansas can best be improved by enacting free market legislation,” Representative Gene Suellentrop. “The government shouldn’t be choosing which stores are selling a legal product.”

If adopted, the legislation would involve the tiered introduction of alcohol products to new retailers, gradually eliminating the anti-consumer regulations currently in place. These accommodations include a ten-year freeze on liquor licenses and a phase-in of beer, wine, and spirits in grocery and convenience stores. Additionally, liquor stores would be permitted to own multiple locations and expand their offerings to include non-alcohol items such as tobacco, mixers, snacks, and ice.

"We are here today, respectfully urging the legislature to pass a law that Kansas customers want, that creates jobs, that benefits our economy, and that most of all, values the free market," testified Dave Dillon, Chairman and Retired CEO, The Kroger Co.

Under the proposed bill’s guidelines, no new liquor licenses would be issued from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2024. On or after July 1, 2015, any licensee holding a valid retailer’s liquor license may sell their license to another retailer qualified to hold the license including grocery and convenience stores, with approval by the ABC, for a $100 fee.

Beginning July 1, 2017, qualified licensees could purchase a class A retailer license from ABC permitting the sale of beer. On July 1, 2020, a class B retailer license would be available for issuance to retailers desiring to sell beer and wine. At this time, liquor stores could begin selling non-alcoholic products of their choosing. Beginning July 1, 2024, the license freeze would expire and qualified retailers could purchase a class C license legalizing the sale of beer, wine, and spirits.

“The Uncork Kansas bill is a sensible proposal that ultimately establishes the free enterprise of legal products, while providing a ten-year period for liquor stores to acclimate to a changing business environment,” said Representative J.R. Claeys.

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Excerpts from Oral Testimony

Dave Dillon, Chairman and Retired CEO, The Kroger Co.

“Grocery retailers are willing to compromise. We think liquor stores should be able to increase their product lines to sell products that they are currently prohibited from selling. And we think it makes sense to phase-in the change so that existing liquor store owners have time to adapt and improve.”

Thomas Willmon, Kansan and Uncork Kansas Supporter

“The concerns of the owners of liquor stores who perceive that their sales will plummet with competition from retail grocers are overstated. I would ask why liquor store owners specifically deserve long-standing special protections from the market competition that nearly every other business is subject to?”

Curt Wright, Vice President – Operations, Taylor Oil

“The message I would like the committee to take away today is that when you are in business, rules and competition change all the time for almost all of us. Good business owners adjust their model, get better at what they do and move forward and ultimately the Kansas consumer, your constituent, is the benefactor. The Kansas liquor laws have shielded the industry from what every other business deals with daily – a rapidly changing and evolving marketplace.”

Tom Palace, Executive Director, PMCA of Kansas

“Competition is the consumers’ best friend. Competition keeps a price check on products and forces the retailer to be very good at what they do or they do not stay in business. HB 2556 is consumer friendly and offers products and services that our customers want.”

Excerpts from Written Testimony

Bob Melcher, Owner – Halftime Liquor

“If you really step back and look at what Uncork has proposed, it’s hard to argue this is a bad bill to the majority. Existing owners can expand to own multiple locations, or choose to sell their license. Meanwhile, we have a few years to prepare for competition from convenience and grocery stores on beer sales, several more for wine, and an entire decade before Kansans could go to one store for all of their needs.”

Amy Conner, Kansan and Uncork Kansas supporter “I tend to do most of my grocery shopping while alone on the weekends and I generally enjoy taking the time to stop in the liquor store to peruse their offerings. But the weeknight is an entirely different matter. If I’m running into the store to pick up something to complete my planned meal for that night, it would be wonderful to be able to make a quick stop by the wine aisle for a bottle of red in the same store while I already have my kids out of the car.”

Mike Thornbrugh, QuikTrip

“Recently, QuikTrip in Kansas City, Kansas, moved one of their million dollar stores a hundred feet into Missouri. The new location in Missouri is a multi-million-dollar building that created new jobs for local contractors, more choices for our customers and better opportunities for our employees. This Missouri location has averaged about a 65 percent increase on inside sales and nearly 80 percent on outside sales … I’m here to tell you that current Kansas liquor laws are preventing business expansion in Kansas.”

Gary Krueger, Owner – Krueger BP and Gary’s BP

“I’m confident convenience stores will do a good job of policing underage purchases. We enforce age-restricted purchases on lottery tickets, 3.2 beer and tobacco on a daily basis. And, in other states with more modern liquor laws, convenience stores have proven their ability to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors.”

J. Kent Eckles, Vice President of Government Affairs, Kansas Chamber of Commerce

“We believe that modernized liquor laws would be a boost to the Kansas economy, creating business opportunities and taking back revenues that are flowing to our border states. It would also stimulate free enterprise and small business growth. Uncork Kansas is good for business, and it’s good for our state.”

Jon Johnson, Owner, Blue Diamond Liquor

“We welcome the opportunity to increase our cash flow by being able to expand our inventory to include non-alcoholic items. Government regulations that restrict us from selling other products to our customers limits our income stream and affects our store’s long-term viability.”

Barry Queen, Owner, Price Chopper “Our customers want a broad range of products and services, and the ability to purchase alcoholic beverages ranks highest on their wish lists. The knowledge that the government has prohibited our industry from selling these products, while our competitors across the river gladly cash Kansas checks for alcohol purcahses, is of significant concern to all in this business as well as those who shop in our stores.”