Archive for Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Kansas bar owners say enforcing long-ignored liquor law means higher drink prices

July 13, 2010


— 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.


nut_case 7 years, 11 months ago

Bar owners say that will mean they are forced to increase prices for larger drinks.

...or cheaper prices for smaller drinks.

banksie 7 years, 11 months ago

Are you bitter your Smashburger costs an extra $.06? Be mad at your legislators rather than new business generating tax income for the city. Unless there is a third tax I am unaware of, the retailers do not even get to keep the tax, as explained by the city of Lawrence website:

Special Tax Districts

Special taxing districts are used in other nearby cities as well as throughout the State. Some nearby retail destinations with special sales taxes include Village West in Kansas City, Kansas, and Oak Park Mall in Overland Park. The Department of Revenue maintains an up-to-date list of all special taxing districts in Kansas at

In Lawrence, there are two areas where an additional sales tax is charged. There is currently a 1-cent Transportation Development District (TDD) sales tax in the following locations:

Oread Hotel....

Bauer Farms: this project is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of 6th and Wakarusa Streets. Approved by the City Commission in October of 2008, Bauer Farms provides a variety of retail stores for residents of western Lawrence. The TDD sales tax will be in place for 22 years and will help pay for up to $6.8 million in public improvements including new sidewalks, streets, sewer and water infrastructure, and lighting for the district.

Brian Laird 7 years, 11 months ago

not compared to Utah or Pennsylvania. This one is strange though.

Ron Holzwarth 7 years, 11 months ago

And the strictest penalties for DUI, don't forget that one!

EarthaKitt 7 years, 11 months ago

Sounds like you got a jump on it today!

Graczyk 7 years, 11 months ago

Does the law apply to beer? It doesn't sound like it.

Graczyk 7 years, 11 months ago

Nevermind. I just saw Whitney's comment below. I think the cheap schooners just set sail.

Mary Sucha 7 years, 11 months ago

I agree with the first comment. Doesn't this mean lower prices for single beer draws? Sounds like the bar owners are going to increase rather than decrease prices and then blame the state.

Cutting the prices of your beers will more that pay for itself.

pizzapete 7 years, 11 months ago

Is this about beer? You can't really increase the amount of alcohol in beer unless you brew it yourself. I'm assuming this is for double well or call drinks?

gr 7 years, 11 months ago

"the law says drinking establishments can't increase the amount of alcohol liquor in a drink without increasing the price proportionately."

Do larger drinks have higher proof?

Because, it says amount of alcohol in the drink, not the size of the drink. If the alcohol percentage is the same, then this statement doesn't apply since the alcohol isn't "increased".

But what happened to mother government protecting us from all harm? Alcohol consumption serves no health benefit and only harms.

jafs 7 years, 11 months ago

Yes, but I think the point is that if a drink contains twice as much alcohol, it should cost twice as much.

So that you're not providing an economic incentive to drink more.

nut_case 7 years, 11 months ago

If that is the exact wording, then I agree - it is somewhat vague. Depending on what your take on 'amount of alcohol liquor' means. An 8oz glass of beer would contain the same percentage of alcohol as a 32 ounce beer, though obviously a different volume. However a well drink with a single shot would be the same volume as the same drink with a double shot, though the alcohol percent would be much higher.

Since it says 'liquor in a drink' I'd tend to think it is intended for the latter situation. 5% alcohol beer is 5% alcohol beer regardless of the size of the container - the amount of alcohol 'in the drink' has not changed.

jafs 7 years, 11 months ago

It really doesn't seem that complicated to me.

If you buy a double shot, it should cost twice as much as a single - that's all they're saying.

gr 7 years, 11 months ago

If the purpose is not to provide an economic incentive to drink more, then that's what they should say in the law instead of this gibberish about "proportional" because proportionally usually means percentages. Just state that there should be no discounts for drinking more. Otherwise, if you say drink is a volume in a glass, then easy to say, one drink costs $X, but buy two drinks (same "proportion" in each drink) and you pay less than $2X. Easy to defeat.

And, if the purpose is not to provide an economic incentive to consume bad things, then what about Happy Meals, double whoppers, Big Gulps, etc.?

FanceeNancee 7 years, 11 months ago

I believe it has to do with the 3.2% alcohol content requirement. I call it "near beer" because that's what I heard it called years ago. The beer and wine cooler stuff at the grocery store has a lower alcohol content than what you can buy at the liquor store.

giveitsomethought 7 years, 11 months ago

@gr I didn't see anywhere where it said percentage. It said more alcohol. Larger glass.... means more alcohol.... means higher price.

wdl 7 years, 11 months ago

I can't think of reason why the state cares what the price structure is in a bar just so they don't have drink and drown nights. A veiled attempted to appear they are really controlling the over all alcohol out put. The states tax revenue is based on gallons sold, by makers, dist., and retail. Bar owners should rejoice at this opportunity. What could be better than a state mandate to raise prices proportional to the qauntity sold. What a downer! They will just hate making more $$$. Its not like they will sell less. Boozers are just like nicotine addicts. They will pay what ever it takes to get what they need. My question is which collection of bar owners ratted themselves out to get this ball rolling.

Jeanne Cunningham 7 years, 11 months ago

If "the people" don't like the law, they should contact their representatives and work to make changes. That's why we have elections and why we vote to be represented in the laws of the state. (learned in 6th grade Kansas History class - ca 1960)

Graczyk 7 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, right, like that will ever catch on.

I_AM_AN_ANARCHIST 7 years, 11 months ago

These bar owners better watch out. if they get to vocal the state is going to come in and raid them and take their stuff, freeze their accounts, and then tell them they owe back taxes even though they can't pay cause their accounts are frozen. OOOHHH....... never mind, I see these guys are are selling something that gets you intoxicated for hours not 30 minutes (barely). If only the sacred journey sold beer they could have complained as loud as they wanted.

I can't wait to move away from this state next month. Have fun with your crazy brand of "less government in our lives (unless it is something we feel doesn't fall in our insane brand of right-wing christian thought then we will screw you)".

wmathews 7 years, 11 months ago

To clarify, the law was passed in 1985 and is state statute 41-2640:

"No club, drinking establishment, caterer or holder of a temporary permit, nor any person acting as an employee or agent thereof, shall ... (5) increase the volume of alcoholic liquor contained in a drink or the size of a drink of cereal malt beverage without increasing proportionately the price regularly charged for the drink on that day"

For example, if a bar owner charges $3 for a 12-oz. drink and $4.50 for the same drink in a 24-oz. size, they need to be charging $6 for the 24-oz. option. It applies to both beer and liquor.

Full text:

Whitney Mathews Online Editor

Mary Sucha 7 years, 11 months ago

Or, they could charge $2.25 for the 12-oz drink.

jrf2027 7 years, 11 months ago

"without increasing proportionately the price regularly charged for the drink on that day"

There's your loophole. Instead of Happy Hour schooners, you have Thirsty Thursday schooners, run the promotion from open to close, and serve no other size of the beer offered for Thirsty Thursday schooners. Then on Friday you revert to normal prices.

WHY 7 years, 11 months ago

So will they charge 1 dollars for a 80 proof shot and 1.20 for a 100 proof. Besides this law will never be enforced because it would require a scientific measurement of each drink sold and a sliding scale price format. Quit electing retards.

nobody1793 7 years, 11 months ago

No I don't think so since those would be two "different products". They're just saying a "double Jack" has to cost twice as much as a "single Jack". They still can charge different prices for a "double Knob" and a "double crapola".

jafs 7 years, 11 months ago

That's an interesting question - what does the moderator think? He seems to have the most detailed information.

jayhawkca 7 years, 11 months ago

If you're asking whether the price of $1 for an 80 proof shot would be applied proportionally to a 100 proof shot, then I can pretty much guarantee that the 100 proof shot would not cost $1.20.

Danimal 7 years, 11 months ago

Yay! Government price controls are back!!! Hopefully they'll fix the price of meat, dairy and petroleum products soon so I can do the budget for the rest of my life.

I can see where the state wants to make sure they're getting all of their liquor tax revenues, but this law is ridiculous. Of course, you have to remember that Kansas was the birthplace of the Prohibition movement.

lionheart72661 7 years, 11 months ago

FanceeNancee (anonymous) replies… I believe it has to do with the 3.2% alcohol content requirement. I call it "near beer" because that's what I heard it called years ago. The beer and wine cooler stuff at the grocery store has a lower alcohol content than what you can buy at the liquor store. Not so, Google it and you will find there is no real difference between the beer sold in grocery stores and beer sold in liquor stores (except specialty beers) Grocery store beer is 3.2 by weight and liquor store is 6.0 by volume. which means they average out to approx. 4.4 percent alcohol. I first learned this in 1984 there are only 4 states that serve "3.2" beer. They are Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Utah.

local_vocal 7 years, 11 months ago

Once liquor by the drink passed in Kansas (1985) it allowed the sale of "stronger beer" at establishments with a liquor license, not just private clubs. It continued to allow beer that the acohol content was not to exceed 3.2% acohol by volume, at grocery stores and gas stations. As the stronger beer is not to exceed 6.0% by volume likewise. That is the difference. Oklahoma does not allow any beer sold with a content exceeding 3.2% Malt Liquor is another story for a later date.

nekansan 7 years, 11 months ago

This could mean the end to the reasonably priced Growlers at Free State. Now the beer prices are effectively based on the $ per ounce.

gr 7 years, 11 months ago

I had to think about that awhile, but I think I understand what you mean now.

From what others said, different types of drinks don't fall under this, but only the same type. So, they may have to rename their drinks.

For example, drink A is 4% and drink B is 8%.
Customer orders "The 4%".
Small or large? Large.

Bartender grabs 8%, pours half in large glass, adds water, juice, coke, whatever and it contains alcohol at both 4% and the same total volume as the smaller 4%. He is charged only 1.5 times the smaller drink.

Law met. Customer happy. Bartender happy.

Until they change the law to apply to the intent, (if there was one), the law serves no purpose and is easy to bypass.

Don't know what bar owners are complaining about. Either they have to wash more glasses, or rename their drinks. Big deal, charge 1.6 times. Easy to defeat.

Evan Ridenour 7 years, 11 months ago

ABC has actually been selectively enforcing this among different places that serve alcohol for at least a couple of years. I know of at least 3 places that were being strong armed into compliance even though they had tons of competitors right next door who weren't also being forced into compliance.

At least now it will be fair between all businesses...

vega 7 years, 11 months ago

Good - less wasted money and less vomit around downtown after midnight!

Grammaton 7 years, 11 months ago

Unless metrics can be provided to indicate to the seller that [this] amount of alcohol equals [this] price, and requires that the seller report how many fluid ounces of alcohol they purchased, blah blah blah, I see no way to enforce this.

Not only is it controlling price, it seems to me that it's also dictating the worth of those who produce the alcohol.

independant1 7 years, 11 months ago

I prefer to buy a bottle of grey goose and take it home.

"When I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself." anyway

feeble 7 years, 11 months ago

Brought to you by the Uber-librul, bleeding heart Kansas legislature and their ABC Brownshirts, and because we just can't have a comment thread on the ljworld with more than 20 posts and no Godwin.

notajayhawk 7 years, 11 months ago

This is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard of - and that's saying a lot.

The entire premise of this absolutely moronic law is that the contents of the glass, bottle, pitcher, whatever, is the sole determinent of the cost. There is, however, such a factor as 'labor'. Or perhaps the ABC personnel work for free, and think bartenders and waitstaff do likewise.

It costs the bar owner twice as much for ingredients to put twice as much booze into a drink, but the increased labor cost is negligible. In case someone hasn't already figured it out, that's why stores can sell items 1-for-$1.39 but 2-for-$2 - because the cost of the sale really doesn't increase much selling two at a time.

What's next? Double-cheeseburgers MUST cost twice as much as a single? After all, we don't want the population getting obese (okay, more obese) because of that quanitity-discount incentive!

1029 7 years, 11 months ago

This is absurd. Obviously this is going to lead to more people trying to their own liquor in potentially dangerous, unregulated basement liquor labs.

Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 11 months ago

Doesn't the story clearly state the statute dates to 1986?

Seems like a lot of hand wringing over a law that is almost 25 years old.

Is the series of "what's next?" arguments really relevant? This is from 1986, so what's next... hand held cellular phones? A marine colonel trading arms for hostages? The Simpsons?

The real question is why the Department of Revenue didn't work with the Legislature when the questions about the statute first came to light.

notajayhawk 7 years, 11 months ago

Gee, bobbie, maybe it has something to do with the fact that they admittedly have not enforced it but say they will start doing so?

Perhaps if you actually read the stories before attempting to comment on them ...

davisnin 7 years, 11 months ago

Government mandated pricing structures are vile. Here is the list of complaint numbers for this stupid F law. It's the publicly listed cell numbers of every ABC agent in the state.

As for all you people that are apparently in support of punitive regressive vice taxes, try to remember that even if someone in your life couldn't handle the drink and ruined soooo much for you. The rest of us are doing fine with it and don't need to be punished for that A hole.

Lindsey Buscher 7 years, 11 months ago

It's bad for business because bar owners and consumers cannot realize an economy of scale. The law accomplishes nothing because even with a good drink special, it is always cheaper to drink at home, however a decent deal on a pitcher will entice people to go out.

Kansas has progressed a lot with its liquor laws, but it still has work to do.

Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 11 months ago

Go away troll. You're disagreeing just to be disagreeable

The Department of Revenue indicates they have been aware of the discrepancy for some time. The Legislature was in session just a few months ago, and the appropriate course of action would have been to take this issue of a misinterpreted or unenforced statute to the Legislature.

According to the Department, they were aware of this 18 months ago. Why cut the Legislature out? Not a good choice.

This issue came to the ABC's attention, Groneman said, because a few chain restaurants operating multiple locations in Kansas wanted information on drink pricing to see if it was consistent throughout the state. He said the ABC also fielded a couple of complaints about places that possibly were selling beer at discounted prices for members of "mug clubs," which is illegal in Kansas.

About a year and a half ago the ABC looked into the state's liquor laws and uncovered the part of the statute that mandates alcohol be priced equally per ounce.

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