Proposals on tap for legislative committees would help Kansas hobbyists and small breweries and phase in grocery store sales of strong beer, wine and liquor, but it’s not clear how far lawmakers will go in further repudiating the state’s dry history.
A Senate committee had a hearing Wednesday on a bill to ease restrictions on home brewers so they would be able to share their beer, wine and cider with friends and have them judged at competitions, rather than limiting home brews to personal or family consumption. The committee expects to vote on the bill next week, and the measure passed the House overwhelmingly last month.
Last week, the same committee voted to allow microbreweries to make 30,000 barrels of beer a year, doubling the current limit.
A House panel had a hearing Wednesday on a bill that would eliminate the production limit altogether and allow microbreweries to sell their own beer to restaurants, bars and liquor stores, instead of requiring them to go through distribution companies. Beer wholesalers oppose it.
The House committee also planned to begin debate on a bill expanding sales of strong beer, wine and liquor into grocery and convenience stores over the next 10 years. Kansas now allows those stores to sell only weak beer, and liquor store owners would like to keep it that way.
The measure sought by grocery and convenience stores would allow liquor store owners to sell their licenses to other retailers in the same county, starting in July 2015. Grocery and convenience stores would be allowed to start selling strong beer in July 2017, wine in July 2020 and liquor in July 2024.
Supporters say the bill would spur competition, which would benefit consumers and create jobs.
But many liquor store owners fear that big retail chains will buy the licenses from struggling stores and use their size to crush mom-and-pop stores.