TOPEKA — Gov. Jeff Colyer chose a still-shuttered Topeka storefront Monday to sign a bill characterized as a tool of economic development that legalizes self-service beer establishments, the sale of alcoholic beverages earlier in the morning and marketing of liquor-infused food products.
The new law also permits microbrewery businesses to contract with other microbreweries to produce and package beer, manufacture beer with a higher alcohol content and clarified state statute regarding refillable take-home growlers often marketed at microbreweries.
"It is important in Kansas that we keep up with the market, that we provide opportunities and we allow new businesses to grow and thrive in our state," Colyer said. "Our existing businesses that are here, they want to build on the opportunities that are out there."
Under House Bill 2470, Kansas joined with 46 states to grant authority for a restaurant to feature digital self-service beer sales. The idea is for customers to make use of a temporary debit card at a bar to sample a wide selection of beers on tap.
In downtown Topeka, the Brew Bank plans to open in a vacant downtown building and become the first restaurant of this type in the state. The developers of Brew Bank were winners of a local business development competition called Top Tank, which agreed to invest $100,000 in start-up capital.
"As technology and methods advance within the brewing industry, it is vital that Kansas evolve and advance with it," said Dusty Snethen, one of three operators of Brew Bank. "It's not only going to benefit my hometown of Topeka, Kansas, but my home state of Kansas. I'm very proud of that."
The bill expanded on current state law allowing for self-serve wine to enable beer to be sold with automated devices at public venues, clubs and drinking establishments. The measure requires video monitoring of the self-pour equipment and maintenance of the recordings for 60 days and guarantees access of the video to law enforcement.
Another key provision allows licensed establishments to initiate sales of alcoholic beverages at 6 a.m. rather than the current standard of 9 a.m. Last call would remain the same because restaurants and bars would have to stop serving at 2 a.m.
It was primarily sought by businesses interested in catering to third-shift employees who get off work in the early-morning hours or to people interested in watching international sporting events on television. Other patrons had requested cocktails with breakfast or brunch, advocates said.
"My district is along the state line, and we’ve got a lot of people that go from Kansas over to Missouri for brunch, and I’d like to keep that business in Kansas," said Rep. Sean Tarwater, a Stilwell Republican.
The law clarified that take-home growlers at microbreweries were legal in Kansas, despite use of the refillable containers for nearly 30 years by the industry in Kansas. Breweries also are allowed by the new law to make stronger beer by raising the alcohol content limit to 15 percent by weight instead of the current limit of 10 percent.
Liquor-infused candy will be allowed to be manufactured and sold in Kansas under the law.These licensed businesses will be regulated by the Alcoholic Beverage Control in the Kansas Department of Revenue.
The bill merged sections of three separate pieces of legislation and was approved by the Senate 34-4 and by the House 94-28. Members of the House and Senate negotiated the final package with industry representatives and state regulators, said Sen. Bud Estes, R-Dodge City.
"Everybody worked quite well together. Good compromises were made," Estes said. "In all, this was a joint effort that people could live with and would be beneficial to the industry."