Topeka — A decision by state liquor officials to begin enforcing a long-ignored law may raise the cost of an alcoholic drink — and some bar owners aren't happy about it.
The law says drinking establishments can't increase the amount of alcohol in a drink without increasing the price proportionately. It was passed in the mid-1980s when the state constitution was amended to allow residents to buy liquor by the drink at public establishments, but it has not been enforced.
Tom Groneman, director of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said the law was not enforced, either because it was interpreted differently in the past, or because it was lost among several changes in liquor laws at the time.
But Groneman said enforcement will begin Aug. 1, because his division believes the requirement is clear.
"I'm sure that not everyone is too happy with that, and I can understand that," Groneman said.
The law would require a business that charges $3 for a 16-oz. draft beer to charge $6 for a 32-oz. draft beer and $12 for a 64-oz. pitcher, The Topeka Capital Journal reported Tuesday.
The statute also applies to drinks, mixed drinks and specialty drinks, with variations for the cost of mixers and sizes.
Enforcing the statute will remove an incentive for customers to buy larger drinks because is cheaper by the ounce.
That does not make people like Topeka bar owner Terry Walker happy.
"I don't think they should be setting our prices for us," Walker said.
Walker said he's been charging $6.50 for a 64-oz pitcher for five years. Under the law, he would have to charge $9 beginning Aug. 1.
"People would scream," he said. "They wouldn't buy it."
To comply with law, Walker said he probably will drop the price of his 16-oz draft beer to $2 from $2.25. That would make the price of a pitcher increase to only $7.50. Walker said he will stop serving his 10-oz draft beer because of the law.
Derrick Reed, owner of Reed's Bar & Grill in Topeka said he's not happy with the law, but he doesn't think it will affect his sales much. He will stop selling smaller drafts of beer, meaning the smallest draft drink he will serve will be the 32-ounce "headache," which costs $3.75. He said that will, in turn, raise the price of a 64-oz. pitcher at Reed's by only 50 cents to $7.50.