OPINION COLUMN – Butler County Times-Gazette
By Jay Sanderson
When Butler County voters go to the polls on November 8, they’ll be faced with many decisions that will shape the future of not just our country, but our local communities as well. On the national level, control of Congress is at stake. On the state level, we choose who will be governor for the next four years. On the local level, we’ll decide on who should represent us in the next legislative session in Topeka. However, there’s another critical choice to be made in our county that could impact the future of business for our cities.
The final item on your Election Day ballot will be the following County Question: “Shall sale of alcoholic liquor by the individual drink in Butler County be allowed in public places without a requirement that any portion of their gross receipts be from sales of food?”
Often times, we see these kinds of measures on our ballot and don’t really know what they are, so an explanation of this question is necessary.
It’s fairly complicated, but to explain it simply, when prohibition ended in Kansas, each county was required to choose if it wanted to be a dry county – businesses can sell no alcohol of any kind, a wet county – where businesses can sell alcohol without alcohol any restriction, or they could adopt what’s known as the 30% rule.
Butler County was one of the places that went the 30% route, meaning the current law in Butler County requires any establishment that sells individual alcoholic drinks, whether its beer, wine or a cocktail, show that 30% of their revenue be from sales of food.
This doesn’t necessarily affect restaurants – they’re food-first establishments. Instead, think of your favorite hole-in-the-wall bar or place to meet up with friends for a beer, or think of your favorite golf course. They aren’t selling steak dinners at a high price. They’re selling hot dogs and chips. So, for every $5 beer they sell, they have to sell two hot dogs at $2 a piece. That means if you have three beers during your round of golf, they must sell you six hot dogs to make 30% of their sales dollars be from food. And really, who eats six hot dogs on the golf course?
It’s not just golf courses. There are bars all over that are at risk. They have to find a way to sell enough cheap food to be able to allow you to come in and enjoy a night out with your friends or if you just want a quick beer after work before you head home.
And really, why should they have to sell food at all? The law is essentially saying if you buy a beer, you MUST buy food. Imagine going to the grocery store and being told that if you buy milk, you MUST buy toilet paper. It’s completely ridiculous.
If any establishment falls under the requirement of 30% of its revenue coming from food, they are at risk of losing their license and closing. Most of the time they never re-open. None of us should want to see that happen, because anytime a business closes, it’s bad for our cities.
Our neighboring counties – Sedgwick County, Cowley County and Chase County have all voted to eliminate the 30% rule, so businesses there can operate without this suffocating requirement hanging over them. We need to create a level playing field in Butler County. We want the same rules they have.
In addition to dealing with the possibility of losing current businesses, leaving the 30% requirement in place will cause damage to the future environment for business in Butler County.
Our larger communities like El Dorado, Augusta, and Andover will all struggle to recruit new businesses that might want to serve alcohol if this rule remains. Those businesses looking to grow will likely go someplace where it’s easier and less restrictive. It means Butler County loses a business, and that’s bad for all of us. We should aim to create an atmosphere where we welcome new businesses with open arms but leaving this 30% rule in place does the exact opposite. It sends a clear message that we aren’t all that business friendly.
So, when you’re at the polls on Election Day, we must vote yes on the county question. A yes vote means you want this arcane, prohibition- era and totally absurd rule to go away. A yes vote means your favorite bar, golf course or any other establishment can sell you a beer and not have to worry about food. A yes vote means freedom of choice of where and how you get your beer. A yes vote means you believe the government shouldn’t tell us how to live our lives. A yes vote means you support a business-friendly environment in Butler County.
When you go to the polls on November 8, find the County Question, it will be the last item on your ballot, and Vote Yes for Beer Freedom