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Proposed liquor law could have mixed results

Lobbyists seek to allow convenience, grocery stores to sell wine and spirits

Staff writer

A coalition of chain grocery, convenience, and big-box stores is urging the legislature to allow full-strength beer, wine, and liquor sales in those stores. The group, operating as Coalition for Jobs and Consumer Choice, claims such a change would create 15,000 jobs in Kansas.

Some local stores doubt the benefits of the change. Greg Carlson, of Carlsons’ Grocery in Marion, said any gains would likely be offset by loss of jobs in dedicated liquor stores, which currently are the only stores that can sell anything stronger than 3.2 percent alcohol beer and wine coolers.

“I think it would be all right for my beer sales,” Carlson said, but he didn’t think it would be a big enough difference to add staff.

Laura Legg, manager of Ampride in Marion and Hillsboro, agreed it wouldn’t increase sales enough to add jobs. Profit margins on alcohol are too small, she said.

Cooperative Grain and Supply, which owns the stores, is neutral on the proposal, she said.

“What I see it doing in small towns is hurting liquor stores,” Legg said. “I don’t see how it can create jobs. I don’t see it being a boon to this county at all.”

Big box stores like Wal-Mart would benefit the most, she said.

Don Vinduska, owner of R & D Liquor in Hillsboro, said other states that have expanded liquor sales have had about 50 percent of liquor stores close. A study commissioned by the Coalition for Jobs and Consumer Choice estimated 341 liquor stores — out of 766 in the state — would go out of business.

Together R & D Liquor and
D & J Liquor in Marion — owned by Vinduska’s wife, Jeannie — have about 12 full- and part-time employees, he said. If the proposal passed, he said they would probably have to lay off their employees and return to working 80-hour weeks to stay in business.

“For us it would be a big blow,” Vinduska said.

He agreed with Legg’s assertion that Wal-Mart would benefit. His store is next door to Vogt’s Hometown Market, yet when he carries sales to customers’ cars, he often sees Wal-Mart bags full of groceries. If people go out-of-town to buy groceries at Wal-Mart, what are the chances they will continue to shop locally for beer and liquor, Vinduska asked rhetorically.

“If they change this law, the value of our stores would plummet,” Vinduska said.

However, the proposed change would benefit Peabody Market, owner Rick Turner said.

“We could build on and add strong beer,” he said.

Without a liquor store in Peabody, customers mostly buy their liquor in Newton, he said.

“A stand-alone liquor store could not make it in Peabody, Kansas,” Turner said. “We don’t have the population.”

But selling strong beer and liquor would be enough to expand the store, he said.

“If they pass that, I wouldn’t want to be a liquor store,” he said. “It’ll happen. There are too many big stores in Kansas City pushing it.”

Wal-Mart, Dillons, Casey’s General Store, QuikTrip, and Kwik Shop are among the members of the Coalition for Jobs and Consumer Choice.

Last modified Feb. 2, 2011

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