WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A Hutchinson brewery is on the brink of closing.
Sandhills Brewing has been in business for four and a half years. Two weeks ago, they realized they were in trouble. Due to a 1986 law, in order to renew their liquor license, 30% of their total revenue must be from food sales.
“We are ultimately not a restaurant. We are a brewery that sells beer that happens to sell a little bit of food. We sell premade pizzas, soft pretzels, bags of chips,” said Pippin Williamson, one of the owners of Sandhill Brewing.
On Tuesday, they made a plea on social media, saying they needed to sell $14,700 worth of food in 10 days to stay open.
“This was a Hail Mary,” Williamson said. “We were going to start making contingency plans of OK, this is how many staff members we’re going to have to immediately put on pause. This is how many we can keep. These are the things that we’re going to have to start thinking about in terms of how we are going to sell any beer whatsoever.”
The community showed up.
“We ended up with wall-to-wall customers and a line out the door within 45 minutes, and that did not stop until 9:30 at night,” said Williamson. “We had people come in like hey, I saw what happened. I want to buy some food. What can I buy?”
In just five hours, they sold more than $16,000 worth of food.
“I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried in our storage room at least several times throughout the night because it was overwhelming,” Williamson said.
But it’s not over. The owners say they misunderstood state law, so instead of needing less than $15,000, they actually need close to $25,000.
Now, Williamson is working with state lawmakers to change the law.
“The idea that existed in 1986, or in the mid-1980s, about a bar being a backroom place and dingy place and a thing where nefarious things happen. Microbreweries are not that they are a growing and thriving business,” said Representative Jason Probst.
The 30% law is in more than 60 Kansas counties.
“As much as I’d like to just go in and with a pen and strike the law, it can’t be changed, except by voters, because they’re the ones that change the law initially,” Probst said.
Rep. Probst says to get this on the ballot, Reno County would have to either make a resolution or utilize a petition. The earliest a vote could happen is November 2023.
As for Sandhills Brewing, it’s go-time, as they have just nine days to sell enough food.