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Archive for Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Sunday sales

It’s time for the Kansas Legislature to do some cleanup work on the state’s liquor laws.

June 25, 2003

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The liquor laws of Kansas almost always have ranked somewhere between inconsistent and nonsensical. In general, they have tended to make consumption less convenient but no less widespread among state residents.

The current trend creeping east from the Kansas City area to allow Sunday sales in liquor stores once again may challenge Kansas lawmakers to bring some consistency and common sense to the state's liquor laws.

At least nine eastern Kansas communities have approved ordinances allowing liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sunday. A number of others, including Lawrence, are considering such a move.

Sunday sales are banned by state law, but communities are challenging that law based on home-rule statutes. The fact that parts of the state's Liquor Control Act are "nonuniform" meaning they treat some cities differently than others caused Wyandotte County District Court to rule that cities may use their home rule powers to opt out of the state's ban on Sunday sales. Atty. Gen. Phill Kline has appealed that ruling and the Kansas Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.

In the meantime, liquor store owners and individual communities are weighing the pros and cons of allowing Sunday sales. Owners of some larger liquor stores applaud the move because they see it as a way to be more competitive with Missouri liquor stores that are open on Sunday.

Some owners of smaller operations worry about the longer hours they will have to work or pay others to staff their stores. In smaller stores, the increased sales may not be enough to cover the increased costs.

Another factor, is that allowing Sunday sales may open other facets of the state liquor laws for debate. Why, for instance, should grocery stores be barred from selling beer on Sunday if liquor stores can sell on Sunday? Some Kansas grocery stores might take the additional step of seeking the right to sell wine and other alcoholic beverages, providing additional competition for liquor stores.

Interestingly, Kansans seem to be voicing few moral objections to the Sunday sales. It's probably true that people who want to consume alcoholic beverages will plan ahead and that Sunday sales won't significantly increase overall consumption.

Kansas already has a hodge-podge of liquor laws across the state such as the county-option provision on liquor by the drink. If the state supreme court upholds the right of local governments to opt out of key provisions of the states liquor act, the situation could become even more capricious.

Legislators failed to amend the Liquor Control Act this year to deal with provisions that the courts have found to be nonuniform. The Sunday sales issue provides ample reasons for legislators to give their attention to cleaning up and bringing more consistency to the Kansas liquor laws.

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