Local News Spotlight

Kansas bill would let liquor purchasers try before they buy

Updated: 2012-01-26T08:17:09Z

By BRAD COOPER

— Everybody likes free stuff.

Go to a barbecue festival, you get to sample the brisket.

Go to a grocery store, you can sample bite-size morsels of cheese and meats.

Now, you might get to sample beer and wine at your local liquor store.

Kansas lawmakers on Wednesday took up a bill that would allow liquor stores to offer swallow-size samples of alcohol to their customers.

The bill filed in the Senate would allow Kansas to join 43 other states that let consumers sample swigs of alcohol.

It would limit samples to one ounce for wine, a half-ounce for hard liquor and two ounces for beer. More than one sample would be allowed.

The samples would have to stay in the liquor store. Minors would be barred from tasting the beverages.

While stores could offer the samples when they’re open, supporters said the tastings most likely would be held for three to four hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

A Senate committee heard testimony on the bill Wednesday. Action is expected next week.

Supporters say the tastings are a form of “in-store marketing” that helps consumers make choices about their purchases.

“Consumers live through experience,” said R.E. Duncan, general counsel for the Kansas Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association. “It helps them decide what product to pick from the ever-growing variety of choices. What it all gets down to is one thing: differentiation.”

The bill energized temperance activists who contended that the tastings would lead to further alcohol abuse.

“The Kansas Legislature has in its power to hold the line on the consumption of alcohol,” said George Winget, president of Kansans for Addiction Prevention. “Alcohol is by far the largest drug problem in America. Any legislation that allows alcohol consumption to increase is bad legislation.”

Sampling has not always been outlawed in Kansas. It was permitted for a brief period several years ago until state regulators stepped in and barred the practice.

Duncan said the Legislature is not being asked to do something extraordinary. He pointed out that liquor store customers are there for one reason: to buy alcohol.

The proposed law doesn’t expose consumers to something new, he said.

“It’s not like we’re asking for something that strikes out in a new way.”

To reach Brad Cooper, call 816-234-7724 or send email to bcooper@kcstar.com.

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