Finney County joined over 30 other wet Kansas counties sans restrictions Tuesday night after residents voted approximately 63.7 percent in favor of changing the county’s liquor laws to no longer require businesses that sell liquor-by-the-drink to make a portion of their revenue through food sales.
Prior to the law change, Finney County businesses wishing to sell liquor-by-the-drink had to generate at least 30 percent of its revenue through food sales. While likely not immediately affecting existing county businesses, the change opens the county’s doors to potential establishments like microbreweries or distilleries that want to specialize in liquor products, but not restaurants, Lona DuVall, president and CEO of the Finney County Economic Development Corp., said Monday.
As of January 2017, 33 of Kansas’ 105 counties allowed businesses to sell liquor-by-the-drink without the food sales restriction and 66 with it, according to the Kansas Department of Revenue. Six, including southwest Kansas counties Haskell, Gray, Meade and Stanton, remained dry.
Gray and Meade counties also put their liquor laws to the ballot Tuesday, asking if residents were or were not in favor of adopting a law that would allow businesses to sell liquor-by-the-drink as long as 30 percent of their revenue was generated by food sales. With 69.7 percent in favor in Gray County and 59.8 percent in favor in Meade, both counties left their dry status behind.
Finney County commissioners, the FCEDC and local business owners have shown support for their county’s prospective law change, believing the change to have long-term economic benefits for the county, a reinvigoration that could bring growth to the area and further benefit existing businesses.
DuVall said Monday that the corporation does not have any active prospects for microbreweries, distilleries or the like at the moment, but there had been interest in the past. On Tuesday, she said in a text message the corporation was “pleased to be open to breweries, distilleries and wine bars now.”
Gray County also asked residents of certain precincts to vote on whether Ingalls USD 477 should issue up to $1.5 million in general obligation bonds to pay for roof, HVAC, drain and boiler replacements, secure entrances and other improvements at district facilities, which passed with nearly 70 percent of the vote, and whether the City of Montezuma should levy a 2 percent retailers’ sales tax beginning April 1 for general government purposes, including constructing and operating a public swimming pool, which passed with approximately 63 percent of the vote.
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