Archive for Friday, February 5, 2010

Liquor stores fighting effort by convenience stores to sell full-strength beer

February 5, 2010


— Liquor stores that hold the monopoly on strong beers are fighting for the exclusive right to keep the tap flowing.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would push open the door to allow convenience stores and grocery stores to sell stronger beer. Currently, those cereal malt beverage vendors are capped at selling 3.2 beer, but the bill would allow the sale of beer with 4 percent alcohol by weight. The bill also would put Alcoholic Beverage Control in charge of cereal malt beverage vendors.

For proponents, the bill is about fairness. They say they need help overcoming a perception that 3.2 beers are inferior and argue they took a hit in business when the drinking age was raised to 21.

Brenda Ellsworth, owner of Pump’n Pete’s in Parsons, argued that liquor stores are able to profit from their advantage and charge higher prices for a product she said customers perceive to be superior. Raising the level to 4 percent would allow cereal malt beverage vendors to sell most major domestic brands at regular strength, just as they are sold in liquor stores.

“What customers want is competition, they want choice, and they want convenience,” she said. “There is not going to be competition until liquor stores no longer have their protected niche.”

Rep. Scott Schwab argued the bill was about allowing the free market to operate without constraints.

“As you listen today,” he said in testimony, “I ask you to consider the same question as our founding fathers: How can we free the marketplace and encourage free enterprise?”

Liquor store owners said it wouldn’t be fair to change the law. Owners argued that they were in a better position to ensure stronger beers were only sold to of-age customers since the law requires that their workers be 21 or older. Hiring workers who are 21 or older, they said, is just one requirement they face that they said cereal malt beverage vendors wouldn’t have to comply with.

Rodney Robson, who owns Jo’s Liquor Store in Caney, said convenience stores could sell beer at far lower rates that would drive an estimated 200 liquor stores out of business. He says his store probably would close because most of his sales are for beer.

“Kansas cannot afford the loss of jobs, and we cannot afford to change the liquor laws that have withstood the test of time for years,” he said. “It is not time for change. It is time to realize that the regulated role of state-licensed liquor stores has value.”


d_prowess 8 years, 1 month ago

So here is a quick question, does this mean if someone buys Bud Light at a convenience store, it is different than the Bud Light someone buys at a liquor store? Does AB then make different batches of beer with the different alcohol contents?

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 1 month ago

“As you listen today,” he said in testimony, “I ask you to consider the same question as our founding fathers: How can we free the marketplace and encourage free enterprise?

I love it when these geniuses invoke non-existent "founding fathers" talk.

If Mr. Schwab really believed his own arguments, he would push legislation allowing beer/wine/liquor to be sold at grocery stores, Walmarts, Targets, or even snow ice kiosks. But he is getting his campaign checks from the convenience store industry so philosophy be damned.

d_prowess 8 years, 1 month ago

Thanks BC. And wow, that seems like a waste of money to have to make pretty much the same product in two different ways!

always_correct 8 years, 1 month ago

major beer companies brew light beers like bud light to relatively high alcohol levels and then water them down to meet desired alcohol by weight and alcohol by volume requirements. so, in response to your question: no. They can come from the same batch.

kusp8 8 years, 1 month ago

Haha. I like it BC. Also, there's no way the founding fathers were thinking about freeing the market place; I'm pretty sure they were mainly thinking about escaping religious persecution. Gotsda love our state senators.

hawkfan_05 8 years, 1 month ago

I have never really understood why all stores cannot sell the same beer. It would drop our beer prices and allow for better compitition between sellers. I take that back. It would allow Walmart, Dillions,HyVee, QT, ect to buy bulk beer for cheeper prices and charge the same price as the liquor stores. Raking in a huge poffit that the liquor stores aren't able to do. HMMMM...sounds real familier....oh yeah, like when we allow these places to sell anything that other private owned stores sell. Why do we (Americans) even encourage small business? All that happens is the big chains steal ideas, swoup in and push the small guy out.

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 1 month ago

One batch, two batch, whatever. Makes little sense. Separate products, separate inventories, separate taxing regimes. None of It is driven by consumer demand. It is an artifice of regulation.

I should not have only mentioned the C-store industry. The liquor store owners write campaign checks too.

What could be more American that two business associations fighting over who can sell what is basically a consumer good by writing checks to legislators and watching them dance.

I think this was the discussion those founding fathers were having.

Becky 8 years, 1 month ago

Liquor stores have to go by rules that convenience stores don't have to go by. If they have the same rules then that's fine go ahead and sell the strong beer. That means you can not sell beer below cost, your employees have to be over 21 to touch or sell the product. Your employees can't be felons and there has to be a person responsible if the store gets caught selling to a minor not a corporation.

lindseydoyle 8 years, 1 month ago

Talk about crazy liquor laws, in PA you can't buy beer in a liquor store or grocery store. You have to buy it from a wholesaler or tavern. In TN you can't buy beer in a liquor store but you can in a convenience or grocery store. In Idaho there are only two (state run) liquor stores in the state. But you can buy beer or wine in the grocery store or convenience store. Maybe the laws have changed recently though.

edwinga 8 years, 1 month ago

How can you talk about free market but restrict how many liquor stores someone can own in this state? (I believe the rule is 1 per person or 2 per married couple) And on the other hand, you can't buy hard liquor in the gas station.....I don't know what you call that, but its not free market.

lgreen17 8 years, 1 month ago

Are you kidding me?

Rep. Scott Schwab argued the bill was about allowing the free market to operate without constraints.

“As you listen today,” he said in testimony, “I ask you to consider the same question as our founding fathers: How can we free the marketplace and encourage free enterprise?”

We should be prescribing, taxing and regulating marijuana too, Scott, instead of people only profiting on the black market.

Wow you are a major hypocrite.

lawslady 8 years, 1 month ago

So, who would like to be able to pick up a bottle of wine when you are grocery shopping? It hasn't killed ths mall liquor stores in other states to allow liquor sales in places besides mom and pop stores. Free market. Give the customers what they want.

Graczyk 8 years, 1 month ago

If they increase the competition for the liquor stores by allowing C stores to sell strong beer, then they also need to relax the regulations against liquor stores. For some strange reason, liquor stores aren't allowed to sell mixers, garnishes, or cigarettes.

Evan Ridenour 8 years, 1 month ago

I have no problem with the idea of allowing grocery stores and convenience stores to sell the same beer as liquor stores. I only have a problem with not making the two groups compete under the same rule set.

Never mind the whole idea of unfair competition because one group has to have employees over the age of 21... ha, that is a completely insignificant cost difference. The real difference in cost terms is the fact that the state of KS only allows two liquor stores to be owned by the same entity. So if you let say Kroger or HyVee sell the same beer as the liquor stores... ya, they will totally be able to undercut them... duh! Not only do they have other products besides liquor to prop up costs they also have hundreds of locations which gives them an advantage in every conceivable way (and there are of course many other ways they would have an advantage, one could probably list hundreds....).

This is a problem that goes to the root of the antiquated liquor laws of this state and it can't be solved by just letting everyone sell regular beer.

I agree, this is silly and will obviously hurt the liquor store owners who already get shafted in this state. In the end, this legislation would be bad for consumers. The real goal here should be to get rid of all these silly rules period.

Mark Kostner 8 years, 1 month ago

Here in Nevada there's a handful of liquor stores and that's it. I go to them when I'm looking for specialty items. Liquor is sold at Walmarts, CVS, and the grocery chains, and beer and wine at the convenience stores. That may be where this is all headed. At least in our state, the ma and pa liquor stores just don't exist anymore. So I can see why the liquor stores are fighting. I am surprised that Kansas still has the 3.2 beer years after the raising of the drinking age and liquor by the drink was passed.

headdoctor 8 years, 1 month ago

“As you listen today,” he said in testimony, “I ask you to consider the same question as our founding fathers: How can we free the marketplace and encourage free enterprise?"

I guess I have become far to jaded. There are certain buzz words or phrases that just cause my mind to shut down and ignore what is being said. Free Enterprise or Free Market is one of them. We don't have any such thing and wont have any time soon, if even forever. If it is uttered by anyone who has any power or influence in the system I automatically think I had better grab for the lube and quick.

Stuart Evans 8 years, 1 month ago

so if they change this law, will liquor stores be able to sell non-liquor store items? Essentially becoming convenience stores..

Stuart Evans 8 years, 1 month ago

or how about they allow grocery & convenience stores to sell good beer, and then allow the liquor stores to also sell marijuana.

Joe Hyde 8 years, 1 month ago

A statewide ban on distributing and/or selling 3.2 beer is what's needed. God, that stuff is nasty-tasting.

Stuart Evans 8 years, 1 month ago

Mooch. i believe Dillons is a Kansas company

Chris Golledge 8 years, 1 month ago

I suspect that the differences that we see between state laws is a reflection of what lobbying groups had more influence when prohibition was revoked, and how the state governments decided to tap into the money flow that alcohol sales generate. Not many of the regulations make a great deal of sense.

Misc factoid: I think it works out that 3.2% by weight of ethyl alcohol is 4.07% by volume. The specific gravity of drinking alcohol is 785 kg/cu.m. So, the difference is not as large as comparing 3.2 to 5; one is by weight and the other is by volume. Five 3.2 beers will give you the same effect as four 5.0 ones.

Still, I guess that means that beer companies get to add 20% more water to the 3.2 stuff, and I'm not sure there is a 20% price difference. So, they're probably laughing all the way to the bank.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years, 1 month ago

Every time this topic resurfaces, I am reminded of a decades old KU Chemistry department analysis of local beers, obtained from a variety of vendors. The finding: regardless of outlet or labeling, ALL beer is essentially 3%--a handful only slightly more and many somewhat less.

"3.2%" and "5.0%" exist on labels.

Besides, who drinks beer for alcohol content?

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years, 1 month ago

Point being... aren't people who are drinking for alcohol content plucking those little (or not-so-little) clear bottles from the bottom shelf?

ralphralph 8 years, 1 month ago

Howsabout we just get rid of the requirement for "liquor stores" as a distinct entity. If hooch is legal, let stores of whatever type sell it. That seems to work okay in many otherwise civilized parts of the nation which have moved more-fully past prohibition. I have to think that there is a layer or two of bureaucracy involved in running the multi-tiered system in Kansas, with different variations in effect from county-to-county and town-to-town. Couple that with the lack of competition, and consumers pay more for their hooch, leaving less money for deceptively elevated sales taxes and such.

Damn Carrie Nation! Open the saloons!

puddleglum 8 years, 1 month ago

does wal-mart even sell beer?

I wouldn't know, haven't shopped in that hole for over 10 years...

BorderRuffian 8 years, 1 month ago

Is this for real???

Isn't this nothing more than one group crying in their beer because they are about to lose their monopoly on sales? What makes liquor stores imagine they should have a special protected status? All of these beer laws and liquor store laws date back to a hodge podge of antiquated alcohol laws and compromises, each one band-aided on top of the other until you can't see the forest for the trees (how's THAT for a badly mixed metaphor?).

I'd say, let them all compete against each other in the good ole American way, and let the consumers for once be the ones to come out a bit ahead.

Chris Golledge 8 years, 1 month ago

I was thinking about the people that I've heard complain about 3.2 beer, but more significantly, there being little actual difference in the beer makes the regulations on them even more nonsensical.

daddax98 8 years, 1 month ago

puddleglum (Anonymous) says…

does wal-mart even sell beer?

I wouldn't know, haven't shopped in that hole for over 10 years…

that makes you very special and the envy of many

kewlb 8 years, 1 month ago

where is pywacket,he has no life and has nothing to do other than comment on others comments,what a letdown to not see an essay on something.

puddleglum 8 years, 1 month ago

thanks daddax98

you go drink china-beer now.

Tom McCune 8 years, 1 month ago

"Lite" beer and "3.2" beer are exactly the same thing inside the can. They just have a different brand name printed on the outside of the can.

When Miller and the other companies came out with "lite" beer in the 1970s, they took a product they had been making for decades (3.2 beer) and just gave it a new marketing spin targeted at a different demographic. (Mostly women.)

3.2 convenience store beer, "lite" convenience store beer, and "lite" liquor store beer are all the same thing.

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