Johnson County breweries, taprooms hope for changes to old law

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. -- Breweries in Johnson County are hoping to change an old rule, and now they're asking the county commissioners to step in and let them vote.

If you plan on getting a beer in Johnson County, you may want to pick something up on the menu as well. Businesses like restaurants and breweries that serve beer or liquor are required to have 30% of their overall sales be food.

"At this point in time there has been no action in the last 30 years plus to make any changes in Johnson County, but several microbreweries, taprooms I would call them, have suggested that times have changed," said Ed Eilert, chairman of the Board forJohnson County's Board of Commissioners.

Breweries like Red Crow Brewing Company said they're making it work despite not serving food in a traditional way.

"We actually don't have a kitchen here," co-owner Chris Roberts said. "We have food trucks and basically hire them as contractors. So you purchase the food from us, and they provide it for you. And we pay them at the end of the night for their services, less the applicable taxes which we collect and submit them at the end of the month just like if we were making it ourselves."

Roberts said he would like to see the law changed because other businesses like his may not have the same option for a workaround.

"It's a business model that we've adopted and will continue to use," Roberts said. "But just because it works for us doesn't mean someone else should be beholden to that same rule or be forced into using that model also."

Eilert said he believes the county commissioners will vote to put it on the ballot, and voters will most likely see it there during the 2020 election.

"We are looking at that issue," Eilert said. "State statute, the interpretation we have so far, the election must be held in 2020 where there's a statewide ballot election, and it must be held in November of that election year."

It's a change Roberts is looking forward to, and he hopes Olathe will follow. Even if the county changes its law, they will still have to follow city laws.

"Personally I think it's a great idea," Roberts said. "I think what we are going to see at that point is some type of change at the licensing at the city level, which I think is great because right now the way it works out is kind of a top-down county level thing that we're beholden to something that may not be what our city that we live in has decided."

Eilert said residents could also put together a petition, but he believes the commission will let voters decide.

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