Hutchinson brewery that avoided closure pushing for change to county law requiring food sales
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KAKE) - You step inside Sandhills Brewing in Hutchinson and it’s impossible to miss the signs, both large and small, all over the place. Each one encouraging people to vote yes on a ballot measure this fall in Reno County that would change a rule that nearly shut them down last year.
"I don't think it would be on the ballot if this hadn't happened," said Sandhills co-owner Pippin Williamson.
The food rule was passed by the state of Kansas in 1986, with it's three classifications for county alcohol sales. There are wet counties with no restrictions, dry counties with no alcohol sales and semi-dry counties, where in order to have a liquor license you need to have 30% of your sales be food.
"We absolutely have no intention of being a restaurant, we've never wanted to be a restaurant," says Williamson.
He says the place serves snacks and small pizza's but nothing substantial.
It took a massive outpouring of support to save the brewery.
"Over the course of five days, we ended up selling $42,000 worth of food,” said Williamson.
He calls that week the most humbling of his life.
With that momentum and public support, Williamson says they were able to convince the Reno County Commission to put a liquor by-the-drink measure on this fall’s ballot. The measure would remove the 30% requirement.
"If we think about like what makes, you know, economic development successful in counties, it's been open to businesses," explained Williamson. "And it's been allowing businesses to come in and work in their business model without overly burdensome regulations."
While Sandhills is the most prominent supporter, other businesses around Hutchinson are backing the measure. Williamson believes removing the 30% rule will open up new avenues for a lot of different businesses.
"I think people get misconstrued sometimes about liquor licenses, they assume that these are things that belong to bars, and taverns and restaurants. They belong to so many other businesses to everything from golf courses, to craft shops, to hobbyists.”
The measure will be on the ballot in Reno County for the November 7th election.