By KATHY HAGEMAN
Dickinson County public information coordinator
Dickinson County voters will have the opportunity to change a long-standing liquor law that would allow an establishment like a tap house or brewery to operate in the county.
County Commissioners approved a resolution in late June that will put the question of “liquor by the individual drink” on the November general election ballot.
The topic came up during a recent county commission meeting when Abilene resident Trevor Witt said he was looking into the possibility of opening a tap house in Abilene.
“Since moving back here six years ago or so, there’s been discussion among social groups and economic development groups that Abilene needs a microbrewery or some type of social gathering place,” Witt told commissioners.
“After six years of hearing that somebody needs to take this on, I decided I might as well do it,” he said.
Witt told commissioners his idea still was in the planning stages and he was working with an investment network of local residents. However, before the proposal can proceed, the county’s liquor laws first must be changed.
“Kansas is kind of odd when it comes to the sale of alcohol, being a state that hasn’t ratified the 21st Amendment yet. (The 21st amendment, ratified in 1933, repealed the prohibition of alcohol),” Witt explained.
“Every county can be a little bit different. Some counties have no requirements, some counties are still dry,” Witt explained. “To change that, it has to be put on the ballot for a general election so the voters can decide if they want that change or not.”
Dickinson County is one of 63 Kansas counties that requires a business to have at least 30 percent of its sales in food before it can sell liquor by the drink, according to County Administrator Brad Homman.
If voters approve allowing liquor by the drink that would pave the way for other similar businesses, whether or not Witt’s idea comes to fruition.
“It would remove a barrier for other folks who are thinking about doing something like this,” Witt said.
Homman added that change could open up other possibilities for the Dickinson County Economic Development Commission in helping the development of new businesses.
“The (Kansas) statute says it’s up to local voters to determine. So, what this resolution will do is authorize Jeanne (Livingston, county clerk/election officer) to put this on the ballot during the November general election to allow local voters to determine if that 30 percent requirement could be removed,” Homman said during the June 30 meeting. “If that’s the case, Trevor could operate a tap house where he’s not required to operate a restaurant.”
If approved, Commission Chairman Lynn Peterson said the proposed liquor law change would be county wide.
“If someone decided they wanted to enter that type of business in any of the other towns or outside the city limits they’d have the opportunity to do so, but it’s subject to voter approval,” Peterson explained.
Dickinson County will have no role in promoting or dissuading voters on the topic.
Peterson noted the commission’s only role in the matter is placing the question on the ballot.
“It’s not up to the county to put information out. We’ll publish what it is, but if someone is in favor or against that, it would be up to them to promote their views within the county,” Peterson said.
“The county is neutral,” said County Counselor Doug Thompson