Kansas remains corked
The Kansas Senate on Friday, May 16, elected not to take up legislation to allow beer sales from chain stores, and it makes little difference.
To be sure, if any such laws were to pass they would disrupt the status quo. But for the serious drinker — that is, a serious drinker by quality not volume — it really will not make that much of difference.
Walmart is not going to be your go-to store for anything that is not mass produced. Walmart is not about to sell a beer with a cork in it anyway.
I already drive past bad liquor stores on the way to get to good liquor stores now.
Don't get me wrong — no liquor store should want Walmart selling beer, as they will lose a lot of big industry beer sales to it. As for the beer though, I buy 95% of my beer from Davis, R.J.'s and Goebel anyway and that is not going to change.
I enjoy my conversations with the clerks of these stores about beer and take their consideration seriously. They have gone out of their way to have the right beer and know a lot about what they carry.
When buying Bud Light, you might as well buy it at Walmart anyway. The current state law requires grocery and convenience stores to sell "3.2" beer — beer that is 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, or ABW. However, the industry actually measures alcohol content by volume, or ABV. Alcohol is less dense than water, meaning a given volume of water will weigh more than the same volume of alcohol. A 3.2 beer is about 4 percent alcohol by volume. "Normal" Bud Light is 4.2% ABV. 4% beer vs. 4.2% is not worth the special trip for that extra 0.2%. If that alcohol was vodka, it'd be in a shot glass the size of a pencil eraser.
As for wine, same will likely be true: Jacobs and Groves will still dominate wine, and the bottle of white zin you take to that Christmas party will be grabbed at the big box store. The point is that the stores that really excel and build a great selection will continue to do so even if there is grocery store selling beer across the street.
It is the bland guys that would get crushed by the Uncork Kansas changes to the law. If we really believe that a business should get special treatment by the law to justify its existence, then we need such laws. Alternatively, it might be nice to have a Trader Joe's or the likes in Wichita, but they would need to be able to sell the full courses — including vino — to open up shop in Kansas.
If there is one thing Walmart has taught the business world it is this: either you want to be the best or the cheapest, but nothing in between. There is no room for JC Penny between the discount store and Neiman Marcus. The same will someday be true for liquor stores. Today, many differentiate themselves by having the governor's special permission to sell booze, and those really need Kansas to remain corked. As for the ones who differentiate themselves by selection, quality or knowledge, they will thrive corked or not.