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Archive for Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Two more cities approve Sunday liquor sales

Shawnee, Merriam argue residents driving to Missouri

June 25, 2003

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— A rebellion of sorts against a Kansas law banning Sunday alcohol sales is gaining momentum, with at least nine eastern Kansas communities approving ordinances allowing the sales and a handful of others discussing the idea.

Shawnee and Merriam are the latest entrants into the fray, their city councils each approving Sunday sales laws Monday night.

The cities argue that their residents are driving across the Missouri state line to purchase alcohol on Sundays and taking money out of the state.

A few blocks from Wyandotte County, on the Missouri side of the border, a big sign boasting of Sunday sales and 5 percent beer beckons Kansas residents into Don's Liquors.

Tom Ferro, an owner of the store, said he is irritated by the way Sunday sales in Kansas is coming about. The counties, he said, are bullying the state government. But the Kansas liquor stores lobbying for Sunday sales will find it's not all they think it will be, he said.

"For the past nine years, I've staffed this place on Sundays," said Ferro, who lives in Kansas. "Most holidays and family functions, I'm not there I'm here. I'm proud to share all of this with my fellow Kansans."

George Unthank, a liquor salesman who was taking an order from Ferro Tuesday, said Kansas liquor stores should step back and consider what they're getting into with Sunday sales.

"Over here, it's everybody right now" selling liquor, he said. "Liquor stores in Kansas have it made because they're the only ones that can sell packaged liquor."

In Missouri, not only liquor stores but also grocery stores, convenience stores and discounters such as Wal-Mart can sell liquor.

He predicted that if the Sunday sales ban is lifted, other changes in the state's liquor laws also could face revision.

"They think it's such a big, wonderful deal," Ferro said of the Kansas liquor stores. "A handful will make money, but a majority will be wondering why they are open on Sunday."

Wyandotte County got the Sunday sales ball rolling last fall when Kansas City, Kan., and Edwardsville opted out of the ban, citing home-rule statutes.

Then-Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall sued to block the sales, but in March a judge ruled that the communities had the right to ignore the Sunday sales ban.

It didn't take long for other cities along the Kansas-Missouri border to jump onto the bandwagon.

In April, Lenexa was the first non-Wyandotte County city to approve an ordinance. After a 60-day waiting period, Lenexa liquor stores will be able to open for the first time next Sunday.

"We had someone come in and request it," City Clerk Mary Sue Fry said. "We started looking into it and decided to go with it. We did it on the assumption that the Legislature would come through and do something, but they never did."

The Kansas House passed a bill during the last session allowing Sunday sales of packaged liquor in places where voters approved, but the Senate narrowly rejected it. The session ended with nothing decided on the issue.

Atty. Gen. Phill Kline has appealed the ruling that allowed cities to adopt charter ordinances, and the Kansas Supreme Court last month agreed to take the case directly without it first having to be heard in the state Court of Appeals. Hearings in the case have not been scheduled.

Kansas communities that have approved Sunday sales ordinances are Kansas City, Edwardsville, Lenexa, Merriam, Shawnee, Lansing, Leavenworth, Overland Park and Leawood.

Prairie Village will vote on an ordinance July 7, and Olathe has discussed Sunday sales but hasn't yet approved ordinances allowing it.

Three Kansas communities Mission, Basehor and Hays rejected ordinances allowing Sunday sales.

Hays is the only non-eastern Kansas town to have considered an ordinance allowing Sunday sales. City commissioners there cited a lack of interest either for or against allowing Sunday sales and so did nothing.

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