A local man who is part-owner of a Lawrence nightclub wants the Douglas County Commission to hold a countywide vote on liquor by the drink.
Reed Brinton, a partner in Benchwarmers Sports Bar & Grill, 1601 W. 23rd, sent County Administrator Craig Weinaug a letter proposing that county commissioners allow a vote on liquor by the drink in the county "without a requirement that any portion of . . . gross receipts be derived from the sale of food."
Douglas County's current law states that businesses with drinking establishment licenses must earn 30 percent of gross sales from food. Businesses that serve liquor but do not meet the 30 percent food requirement must operate under the rules of a private club.
State law allows counties to determine their own drinking laws.
IF THE county commission agrees to allow a countywide vote on liquor laws, the earliest the issue could be on the ballot is November.
Brinton was not available for comment this morning.
Four Kansas counties Sedgwick, Ellis, Wyandotte and Geary have done away with the food requirements, according to Jim Conant, chief administrative officer with the Alcohol Beverage Control division of the Kansas Department of Revenue.
This morning, the county's three commissioners offered a mixed reaction to the subject. Commissioner Louie McElhaney said that Brinton had talked to him about voting on a change in liquor laws, but that he wanted to hear both sides of the issue.
"I don't think I would have any objections to that, but I'm not definitely decided, either," he said.
Commission Chairman Mark Buhler said he wanted to read Brinton's letter and also learn more about the statutes on alcohol sales.
"IT'S A pretty sensitive issue. I'd be interested in hearing from the public on it," he said.
Buhler added that he thought many restaurants and drinking establishments struggle with the 30 percent food requirement.
Commissioner Mike Amyx said he wouldn't comment on Brinton's letter without reading it.
If the commission agrees to hold a vote on the issue, Conant said, the question is required by law to be placed on a state general election ballot. Liquor by the drink can be passed by a simple majority of county voters, he said.
WEINAUG SAID a simple majority of commissioners is needed to put the question on the ballot. If commissioners deny the request, a petition drive with signatures of 10 percent of the county's registered voters calling for an election on liquor by the drink would be the only other way for the issue to get on the ballot.
Weinaug said commissioners also could exercise their home rule powers and approve liquor by the drink for the county without a countywide vote. This unlikely occurrence would take a unanimous vote of the commissioners.