Topeka Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill Tuesday that will, for the first time in modern history, allow grocery and convenience stores to sell "strong" beer, with up to 6 percent alcohol content by weight, starting in April 2019.
At the same time, the bill also will allow liquor stores to sell things other than alcohol, such as mixers, snacks and cigarettes.
Grocery and convenience stores have been lobbying for years to gain access to the packaged alcoholic beverage market in Kansas, something that currently is controlled exclusively by retail liquor stores. Currently, they are only allowed to sell cereal malt beverage, also known as "3.2 beer," which contains 3.2 percent alcohol or less, measured by weight.
Liquor stores have successfully fought those efforts for the last several years. But the scales tipped against them last year when both Colorado and Oklahoma enacted laws eliminating barriers to selling strong beer.
That meant that Kansas is now one of only a handful of states maintaining separate laws for strong beer and cereal malt beverage. Because of that, industry lobbyists say it's likely that beer manufacturers will soon stop making the weaker beverage, which would lock grocery and convenience stores out of the alcohol business entirely.
The bill was supported by a coalition of grocery and convenience stores that went by the name "Uncork Kansas." That group included Dillon's Stores and Casey's General Stores.