Kansas lawmakers heard testimony Thursday on a bill that would make it easier for businesses to sell low-alcohol and low-calorie beer.
The bill, HB 2672, would amend current law so that businesses would not need a separate liquor license to sell cereal malt beverages (CMB), more commonly known as 3.2% beer.
“The legislation being considered today involves a simple set of changes to statute and should be considered public policy that promotes healthier choices and options for Kansas adults that choose to have a beer after work, or during a weekend get together or celebration,” Jason Watkins, executive director of the Kansas Beer Wholesalers Association, told the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs.
Under current law, businesses that have a state-issued liquor license may not serve CMB. They must apply and pay for a separate locally-issued CMB license to be able to sell 3.2% beer.
The licenses can cost anywhere from $25 to $200.
“We’re not asking you to get rid of the CMB license. We’re just asking you to allow basically bars and restaurants that have a drinking establishment license to be able to sell CMB without having to go get a CMB permit,” Watkins said.
Ted Powers, director of state government affairs for Anheuser-Busch, a brewing company headquartered in St. Louis, submitted written testimony in favor of the bill.
He said current Kansas law around CMB iss outdated and unnecessary.
“Consumer demands and health trends are changing toward beers that are specifically brewed to be below the 3.2% threshold,” Powers said. “As a result, clubs and drinking establishments have run up against current Kansas law that will not let them carry these lower alcohol products without purchasing an otherwise unnecessary CMB license.”
Kansas should make it easier to sell CMB products because they are becoming more popular in the state, Watkins said.
“These products are in high demand and demand increases every day as more calorie and lower alcohol content beverages for their pursuit of healthier lifestyles,” Watkins said. “We’re just asking you to allow, say, Old Chicago to be able to sell Michelob Ultra Gold, which qualifies as CMB in the state.”
Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, said the bill was seemingly uncontroversial and that the committee would likely work it next week.