Topeka — Last call on cheap drinks just got delayed.
Gov. Mark Parkinson gave a reprieve to bar owners Thursday by delaying implementation of a policy that some complained would have driven up the cost of alcoholic beverages.
Earlier this week, the Alcoholic Beverage Control division of the Kansas Department of Revenue said it would start Aug. 1 enforcing a long-ignored law that said drinking establishments can’t increase the amount of alcohol in a drink without increasing the price proportionately.
Many establishments offer special deals for larger drinks, and bar owners reacted angrily to the decision.
In Lawrence, PJ Mather, manager at Louise’s West, said she thought the ABC’s policy would affect every bar in town. And Chuck Magerl, owner of Free State Brewery, noted that while brewery’s popular take-home growlers wouldn’t fall under the new policy, the brewery would have to adjust its prices for glasses of beer.
But not everyone was upset by ABC’s action.
Kathryn Nemeth Tuttle, associate vice provost for student success at Kansas University, saw the policy as a step in the right direction to curtail binge drinking.
“If the goal is to consume as many drinks as rapidly as possible, then perhaps students will stop and think if the price goes up,” Nemeth Tuttle said. “That has shown to be effective in reducing cigarette usage.”
Kansas Attorney General Steve Six expressed some concern about the new policy, according to a statement from Parkinson’s office.
“The interpretation of the statute and regulations related to the pricing of drinks has the potential to significantly impact hundreds of small businesses and generate confusion for consumers,” said Parkinson’s spokeswoman, Amy Jordan Wooden.
Parkinson then put the plan on hold.
Now, ABC will meet with stakeholders “to assess the impact of this policy memorandum and seek guidance and clarification on the statute from the 2011 Kansas Legislature,” the governor’s office said. The 2011 legislative session starts in January.
Phil Bradley, CEO and lobbyist for the Kansas Licensed Beverage Association, said restaurant and bars had been following the 1986 state law. The difference with the policy, Bradley said, is that they were increasing the cost proportionately to just the alcohol in the drink, not the price of the entire drink. So a drink with double the amount of alcohol wouldn’t be double the price because other costs — such as the labor involved — hadn’t changed.