BUTLER COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) — This November, Butler County voters will have the opportunity to keep or rescind a 1986 rule affecting all public eateries, bars and breweries.
Essentially, the rule states all public establishments that sell alcohol must have 30 percent of their yearly sales go towards food. The decades-long rule, a remnant of the Prohibition Era, is one some business owners say puts their businesses (and future businesses) in jeopardy.
“It’s ridiculous that it is dictated to us how we are allowed to sell our own product,” Jay Sanderson, Director of Sales at Walnut River Brewing Company, said.
With inflation affecting every part of his El Dorado business, Sanderson says removing the minimum requirement would relieve a looming and unnecessary burden.
“We’ve been as low as 31 percent…it gives us the safety and comfort of knowing that we don’t have to have a minimum amount of food sold in order to stay open,” Sanderson said.
Sanderson says the push to remove this rule also goes well beyond his own business.
“Butler County and Reno County are the only two counties [in our area] that have breweries in them that are subject to the 30% rule…if Butler County were to pass [the ballot measure], it would signal that it was a more business-friendly environment,” Sanderson said.
Those sentiments are also echoed by one restaurant owner in Augusta. Shane Scott, the owner of the World Famous Sugar Shane’s restaurant, says he’s pushing to remove the rule in order to help revitalize Augusta’s downtown corridor.
“Our goal is to put six unique boutiques in here, six unique dining experiences, and six unique entertainment experiences on the weekend,” Scott said.
Scott says if the rule is removed, it would give area restaurant, bar and brewery owners a level playing field with Sedgwick County businesses.
“If we were to recruit a brewery into town, we want them to focus on brewing beer, not selling food, and we need that economic help over here, and it’d be great as we’re a growing industry and we’re open for business bringing people down here,” Scott said.
Sanderson says one concern he has with the current ballot measure is the wording of the measure itself. He clarified the measure is not a push towards an open container law, as the rule would only apply to public establishments that sell alcohol.