News and notes from around town:
• It won’t be done in time to help in the restocking of your fridge before Saturday’s game, but Free State Brewing Co. is expanding its East Lawrence bottling plant.
Free State leader Chuck Magerl told me the company is in the process of installing a new bottling line brought in from Germany and new fermentation tanks. The result will be that the production plant at 1927 Moodie Road now will be able to brew more beer and bottle it faster. After a 2008 fire set its plans back, the company has been bottling beer out of the location for about two years.
“It still feels like a carnival ride at times, but it has been satisfying to see the level of sales in Kansas that we have reached.”
Magerl believes the company still has room to grow sales in the Sunflower State, but the expansion also will allow the company to have more of a market presence in Missouri and Nebraska. (Free State did manage to have its brews on hand in a few St. Louis establishments last weekend.)
Last year Free State produced about 6,000 barrels of beer — which, if I’ve done my math right, is about 12,000 kegs or a little less than 2 million 12-ounce bottles. By next year, Magerl hopes to be producing 7,500 barrels — or just under 2.5 million bottles of beer. (Or in other words, about enough to get us through a Final Four weekend.)
• While we’re speaking of beer and Final Fours (perhaps your head is still pounding from the subject as well), here’s a quick little number about what Sunday’s victory may have done for the city’s coffers. In 2008 — KU’s last National Championship — Lawrence collected an additional $270,000 in drink tax revenues during that crazy sports year. In other words, bars and restaurants alone sold an additional $3.2 million worth of booze during that crazy sports year. (The National Championship was the big driver, but KU football crowds were also larger than normal that year when fans were still jazzed from KU’s Orange Bowl victory.) Liquor store sales and 3.2 beer sales aren’t included in that number.
Sales tax revenues added an even larger chunk to the city’s coffers in 2008. The city collected an additional $781,275 in sales taxes in 2008. Not all of that can be attributed to the Final Four, but a good portion can. Think of Final Four T-shirts, party platters, 25-gallon drums of guacamole dip, four or five new flat screen TVs, a back-up generator to power those TVs, a private satellite feed in case the cable goes out, a new crimson and blue Camaro, and all the other typical party stuff. All that comes with a sales tax. And this time around it will come with a larger sales tax than it did in 2008. Back in 2008, voters hadn’t yet approved the sales taxes for the T and for streets and infrastructure.
One last thing regarding taxes and partying: Not all partying is equal when it comes to helping the city’s coffers. The city gets a good amount of taxes from liquor sales made at bars and restaurants. Same goes for 3.2 beer bought at grocery stores or convenience stores. But that is not the case when you buy liquor at a liquor store. The city and county get zero tax dollars made from sales at liquor stores. Liquor stores don’t charge a traditional sales tax. Instead, they charge an 8 percent liquor enforcement tax. The state, however, keeps all the revenues from that tax.
Yeah, that’s not going to stop me from visiting a liquor store either, but it is an interesting quirk in the state’s tax laws. Even so, Sunday’s win certainly was a multimillion-dollar boost to the Lawrence economy.
• Maybe all this nerve-wracking basketball has you looking for a way to burn off some nervous energy. If so, you can always grab your skateboard and your insurance card and head off to the city’s skate park in Centennial Park.
Soon, though, that option will be temporarily off the table. The city is set to get started on a major renovation to the skate park. City commissioners at their Tuesday meeting are scheduled to hire Whoskates from Kennebunkport, Maine, to design and build the renovations at the park. The city has set aside $125,000 in its budget to improve the heavily used skate park. The next step is for the city and the company to host some public meeting with skaters and other interested parties to determine exactly what that $125,000 can buy.
But the company provided some photos of a New York skate park they built for about $125,000.