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Microbreweries And Small Bars In Johnson County Could Benefit If Voters Ditch Long-Standing Liquor Law This November

Microbreweries in Johnson County like Limitless Brewing in Lenexa say the 30% food rule has been taking their focus away from their product.
Limitless Brewing
Microbreweries in Johnson County like Limitless Brewing in Lenexa say the 30% food rule has been taking their focus away from their product.

Smaller establishments say regulation originally meant to curb alcohol sales puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

Johnson County residents will vote this November on whether to repeal a long-standing rule requiring businesses that sell alcohol to generate 30% of their revenue from food.

On Thursday, the County Board of Commissioners passed the measure unanimously, placing it on the general election ballot November 3. The measure is backed by microbreweries and bar owners, who say the 30% rule puts them at a competitive disadvantage with larger breweries.

“This is an opportunity to level the playing field in the metro area for some of our microbreweries and other businesses,” said County Commissioner Janee Hanzlick.

Commissioner Becky Fast echoed that sentiment, adding the regulation, which was established in 1987, is archaic.

“We are the last major metro in Kansas to repeal this. We should have been leading on this,” Fast said

Emily Mobley, co-owner of Limitless Brewing in Lenexa, Kansas, said the rule has taken much of her businesses' focus away from where it should be: craft beer.

She said she has to turn to food trucks and other alternatives to bring in food from outside in order to meet the 30% threshold.

“We don’t have a kitchen, so I’m constantly worrying about catering,” Mobley said “We make beer, and [repealing the measure] allows us as a company to focus on that, focus on making good flavorful beer for people to enjoy.”

However, County Commissioner Michael Ashcraft raised some concerns he said he has heard among local law enforcement.

“It will enable Johnson County to operate ‘bars’ as it were, that get away from the family environment that 30% food consumption has fostered, and I’ve heard from multiple officers who have concerns,” said Ashcraft.

Still, Ashcraft said he would support the measure being on the November ballot, but he cautioned residents to be "responsible and considerate" when voting on the matter.

As KCUR's health reporter, I cover the Kansas City metro in a way that reflects our expanding understanding of what health means and the ways it touches different communities and different areas in distinct ways. I will provide a platform to amplify ideas and issues often underrepresented in the media and marginalized people and communities in an authentic and honest way that goes beyond the surface of the issues. I will endeavor to find and include in my work local experts and organizations that have their ears to the ground and a beat on the health needs of the community. Reach me at noahtaborda@kcur.org.
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