Finney County commissioners on Monday unanimously voted to approve a resolution to place a question on the November election ballot that will ask voters whether they support allowing the sale of liquor by the drink at establishments in the county without requiring those businesses to generate a certain portion of their gross receipts from the sale of food.
More specifically, the ballot question will ask Finney County residents to vote for or against the removal of a regulation requiring county businesses selling liquor by the drink to generate 30 percent of their revenue from food sales, or be designated as a private club.
“I think it’s a good move economically for the community to provide some new opportunities for entrepreneurs and those who have an interest in that industry,” Lona DuVall, president of the Finney County Economic Development Corp., said following Monday’s meeting.
The FCEDC initially brought the idea of changing the local liquor law after it began noticing more interest from entrepreneurs in opening distilleries, wine bars and microbreweries in Garden City, according to DuVall.
“… Those movements have grown, really on a nationwide level,” DuVall said of distilleries and microbreweries becoming more popular. “We’ve seen more and more interest in doing that, but not all of those folks want to run a full restaurant. Obviously, they want to do what they are passionate about, which is distilling or brewing.”
Under Kansas law, counties are categorized in three ways: dry counties that do not allow sales of liquor by the drink, wet counties that place no requirements on sales of liquor by the drink, and wet counties that require businesses selling liquor by the drink to generate 30 percent of their revenues from food sales.
Finney County falls into the third category, and local officials have had discussions for months about doing away with that status, the Telegram previously reported.
As of January 2017, 66 of Kansas’ 105 counties still had the food sale requirement, while 33 did not. Six counties remained dry, according to the Kansas Department of Revenue, and four of those counties are in southwest Kansas, including Meade, Haskell, Gray and Stanton.
Ford, Grant, Stevens, Morton, Lane, Scott, Wichita and Greeley counties allow sales of liquor by the drink without a food rule.
“As we had seen a lot of other counties in the state go through this process, and get through the full liquor by the drink, we just thought it was time we take a look at that as a community also,” DuVall said.
Commission chairman Larry Jones agreed with DuVall's assessment of the benefits of distilleries and microbreweries etc., to the local economy.
"I think it’s an economic benefit. If you look at all around the country, they have brew pubs and brewing facilities. Our neighbors to the east have them," Jones said after Monday's meeting. "I don’t know why we wouldn’t let the citizens make the choice and put it on the ballot."
A microbrewery with a restaurant component already has begun construction on Main Street in Garden City. The project is part of an entrepreneurial effort by Jorge Guzman, owner of Las Margaritas Mexican Restaurant, and his partner, Carlos Mantilla, owner of a produce export company in South America. The brewery will be located in the 200 block of Main Street at the former location of Bike Rack Inc.
DuVall said she and the FCEDC welcome all questions and inquiries about the ballot question, and those with questions can call the FCEDC office at (620) 271-0388.
In other business:
• County budget requests for 2019 also continued on Monday, when the commission heard more general and administrative budget requests.
County Administrator Randy Partington updated the commission on the general and administrative 2019 budget requests, which has a $157,253 increase over 2018’s $3,391,713 budget. The increase is 4.64 percent over 2018, and reflects the potential cost increases of contractual, commodities, capital and outside agency costs, according to Partington.
The 2019 budget for this department also includes the following outside agency requests, along with county departments that receive general fund transfers:
• CASA, $20,000 — a $10,000 increase
• Juvenile Detention Center, $447,946 — a $10,909 increase
• Soil Conservation, $30,000 — no increase
• Community Services Center (Youth Services), $171,560 — no increase
• Extension Council, $160,000 — no increase
• Compass Behavioral Health, $150,000 — no increase
• City on a Hill, $25,000 — denied funding in 2018
• Western Kansas Child Advocacy Center, $20,000 — asked for funding too late in 2018 to receive anything
• FCEDC, $25,000 — this amount is an estimate of what it takes from the General Fund above the maximum amount allowed within the Economic Development Tax Levy Fund, which is 1/4 mil.
The commission took no action on the budget request, but took it under advisement.
The next commission meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. June 18 at the Finney County Administration Building.