Alcohol sales question may go on ballot

A group of Humboldt residents is seeking a public vote that would loosen Allen County's restrictions on selling alcohol. If approved, businesses selling liquor by the drink would no longer have to meet food sales standards as well.


Local News

July 29, 2020 - 10:26 AM

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Allen Countians may soon be asked to vote on loosening the county’s alcohol laws.

Paul Cloutier of A Bolder Humboldt asked county commissioners Tuesday to consider adding a resolution to the general election ballot, that allows entertainment establishments to sell primarily alcohol. 

Current law requires those that sell liquor by the drink to derive 30% of their profits from food sales.

Cloutier said A Bolder Humboldt was interested in opening “multiple new and compelling businesses” that may only be possible without the 30% stipulation.

Cloutier, who also serves on the Humboldt City Council, noted five out of nine counties in southeast Kansas (including Bourbon and Woodson) have already overturned this rule, “a vestige of strict alcohol regulations dating back to the 1880s.”

Paul Cloutier, representing A Bolder Humboldt, discusses with Allen County commissioners Tuesday the benefits of overturning the “30 percent rule” regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages. He is appealing for the county to put the question on the general election ballot to let Allen Countians decide whether to lift the requirement. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

He also noted “this rule limits the types of innovative and desirable businesses that can exist here, including microbreweries, wine tasting rooms, [music venues,] or other creative, popular bar experiences.”

Because these types of businesses are currently precluded from existing, noted Cloutier, “our county is leaving money on the table.”

“Microbreweries, in particular, are reshaping the economic landscape,” he noted, “drawing tons of outside visitors, and generating loads of new tax dollars.”

The precise wording of the resolution would read: “Shall sale of alcoholic liquor by the individual drink in Allen County be allowed in public places without a requirement that any portion of their gross receipts be from sales of food?”

Commissioners did not immediately take action on adding the resolution to the ballot, but seemed amenable to doing so after they’d reviewed the appropriate documentation.

They have until next Tuesday, Aug. 4, to approve adding the measure in order to get the public’s feedback.

COMMISSIONERS received the good news that, with regard to residential and commercial properties, the county is within “statistical compliance.”

Hence they invited appraiser Jami Clark to the meeting to thank her for a job well done, an especially difficult task given that this is only her first year in the position.

“We study the sales that are occurring,” Clark explained, “and the state requires that we be within 10% of every sale price. … We work hard to keep up with everything that’s gone on with [any] house.”

Communications director Angie Murphy shared a concern with commissioners about not having enough funds available to purchase adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help the county and other entities fight the spread of COVID-19.

At present, Murphy had only $2,000 available by the end of August for expenses, but was worried that adequate preparation and equipment purchasing would cost closer to $8,000.

After some discussion on the issue, including highlighting that all expenditures should ultimately be reimbursable through CARES Act funds, commissioners approved Murphy’s request.

Clerk Sherrie Riebel obtained a vote from commissioners to pursue $5,000 in grant funding to be spent on the Services to the Elderly van.

Riebel also noted that although meals services have resumed at area senior centers, the centers have not yet been reopened for games and other social activities.

She further highlighted the dramatic need for volunteers to deliver food with the Meals on Wheels program, and encouraged any interested parties to contact her office.

According to public works director Mitch Garner, the county’s rock reclaimer is functional once again, and will immediately be put back to use.

Commissioner King also shared a letter from Deb and Greg Kaufman that read: “With our thanks, you made our world a happier place to be. Thanks to all for the excellent job you did on the ditches.”

Terry Call said that the fire department has training set up for water rescue this Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the Neosho River.

Call also said “the [fire barn] buildings are just about done” at both Humboldt and Moran, but a few items and furniture have yet to be installed, including rock in front of the stations.

Crews have already moved in at Humboldt, and a grand opening ceremony will follow as soon as “the outside is cleaned up a little bit.”

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