Topeka Bars and restaurants in Kansas will soon be allowed to start serving alcohol as early as 6 a.m., and pubs will be allowed to dispense beer through automated, self-serve taps.
Those are just two of the provisions of a multipronged alcohol bill that Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer signed into law Monday.
"It is important that we in Kansas keep up with the market, that we provide opportunities and we allow new businesses to grow and thrive in our state," Colyer said during an outdoor bill-signing ceremony in downtown Topeka.
One new business hoping to get off the ground as a result of the bill is the Brew Bank, which plans to showcase dozens of varieties of beer, including many Kansas craft beers, and to offer them through automatic, card-operated vending machines.
That startup is the brainchild of Dusty and Melissa Snethen, of Topeka, and their partner, Ryan Cavanaugh, who recently won a local competition for a $100,000 prize for coming up with an innovative idea for a new business.
"We're going to feature Kansas brews," Dusty Snethen said in an interview. "So we have about 30 taps, all self-serve. We're going to have one wall that will be completely Kansas craft brews, all the great flavors we're making throughout our state. We're really catching up with Colorado and California. We want to celebrate that. And then we'll have another wall with all the great flavors that people are already familiar with."
The bill that Colyer signed came out of a conference committee as a combination of multiple bills lawmakers had considered during the session.
The one that stirred the most controversy will allow licensed establishments to begin serving at 6 a.m. instead of waiting until 9 a.m.
Supporters said that would benefit people who work the night shift and want to go out for a meal and drinks after work. They also said it would cater to people who enjoy going out and watching European sports events on live TV.
But opponents argued it could result in more people driving under the influence of alcohol at the same time that children are walking or getting on a bus to school.
"We looked at this. Many other states have had the same sort of thing," Colyer said when asked about that issue. "The law is the law that prevents people from drinking (and driving)."
Another provision of the bill will allow microbreweries to produce and package other products on contract for other microbreweries.
Sean Willcott, of Holton, said he and his family were planning to launch such a business in the near future.
"With this bill specifically, we found an opportunity where we are wanting to help out the craft brewing industry in the state of Kansas by opening up our packaging equipment to other breweries," he said in an interview. "The idea is to let other breweries contract in to produce their product that may not have the capability of packaging in a 12-ounce bottle, and be able to offer their products in local liquor stores."
Other provisions of the bill allow microbreweries to produce beers with up to 15 percent alcohol by weight; regulate the sale and production of alcoholic candy and foods containing alcohol; and clarify existing statutes dealing with the sale of beer from microbreweries in refillable containers known as growlers.
The new laws will take effect when they are published in the Kansas Register, which is likely to be within the next few weeks.