HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) — On Nov. 7, Reno County voters will decide on whether to get rid of the food rule.
Reno County has been a semi-dry county since the 80s, meaning businesses that sell alcohol by the glass over 6% must ensure food makes up 30% of sales.
“This is ultimately an outdated regulation that is obscure that very few people actually recognize is still here,” Pippin Williamson, Sandhills Brewing co-owner, said. “I mean the number of times that we’ve heard people say like, I thought we got rid of that 20 years ago. If you’re a non-food establishment, it is almost impossible to do 30% food sales. And that is actually the way that this law was designed was to make it impossible for non-food establishments to operate with alcohol.”
The only way to change that rule is for the public to vote on it. To get it on the ballot, commissioners had to vote for it.
“I think the county agreed that it was worth bringing to a vote whether that should be eliminated as a restriction,” Reno County Commission Chair Daniel Friesen said.
Friesen says there are businesses in town that sell alcohol but aren’t a restaurant.
“They have kind of an unfair disadvantage when it comes to having a requirement to have food sales with that you know, we’re leaving it up to the voters to decide, but it seems like a way to reduce kind of arbitrary regulation,” Friesen said.
Sandhills Brewing says the first time they renewed their liquor license, they weren’t held accountable for only having 21% of sales be food.
The last time they renewed their license, they were told they had to reach 30% food sales in order to renew their liquor license. Thankfully, the community made it happen in less than a week.
Williamson set out to change this and make sure it was on the ballot in November.
“This is a law that has been on the books for so long that we just kind of accept that it’s there,” Williamson said. “And it takes younger, motivated business owners to say, hold on, this is kind of a problem. Let’s see if we can get rid of it.”
Williamson says changing this rule will enable a better business environment in Reno County.
“It literally affects any establishment that either has or wants to have a liquor license, bowling alleys, public golf courses, craft studios, or selling a glass of wine to the customers at local community theaters or movie theaters,” Williamson said. “Any business that is open to the public that would like to sell a glass of beer or a glass of wine cocktail, even cheap, canned beer. The question on the ballot is going to ask you basically whether or not you believe in smaller local businesses and believe that they should be able to operate with fewer regulations to support a thriving local community.”
McPherson will also vote on getting rid of the food rule in November.