Employees at 8th Street Liquor on Thursday were setting up curbside liquor sales, approved Wednesday by the Kansas agency that regulates liquor, Alcoholic Beverage Control.

“We’re going to do it, I’m already getting it set in motion,” said Wes Rathbun, owner of the package liquor store at 235 W. 8th St.

Curbside customers now have a designated parking spot right in front of the store, Rathbun said.

“We’re still going to have our lobby open for now,” he said. “Customers can call, place an order, pull up and we’ll deliver the booze right to their car.”

This should cut down on crowds in the store, alleviating some concerns about COVID-19.

“This benefits the customer,” Rathbun said. “For my employees, we already have Lysol and hand sanitizer at every register, and we’ve been hitting the door knobs and everything else that comes in contact.”

The new ruling won’t be of much benefit to bars, however, said Danny Herman, owner of The Golden Q, 809 Ash St., right across the street from 8th Street Liquor.

“I can’t sell it unopened,” Herman said. “A liquor store can, but a bar can’t. Legally, I have to open it.”

With the new policy, for example, Herman said that if a customer is drinking a bottle of wine, then decides to leave, they can ask for a shrink-wrap seal, then have the bottle bagged and the bag sealed, then drive home without violating open container laws.

Liquor stores will do all right with the new policy, he said, but liquor-by-the-drink is suffering.

“It won’t make any difference for me,” Herman said, adding that the state ban on gatherings of more than 50 people is hurting his business.

“Fifty people at a time doesn’t really pay the bills,” he said. “To me, the way it sounds, it’s just a matter of time before they shut the bars down.”

Bars and restaurants have been ordered closed in Lawrence, Herman said.

“I imagine in the next few days it’ll make its way here. I hope I’m wrong,” he said. “It’s going to get weird here before it gets better.”

The new policy motivated the owners of Kaiser Liquor to open a drive-through at their package liquor store at 2801 Hall, said Randy Kaiser. Normally, each drive-through location has to be approved by the state first, but the new policy allows it without pre-approval, Kaiser said.

“It’s actually something I’ve considered doing for some time,” he said. “This was just the perfect opportunity to do it.”

Randy and his wife, Danna Kaiser, already had installed a drive-up window when they remodeled the store a few years ago, so Wednesday they began getting it ready. The owners already have drive-up at their east Hays store at 1105 E. 27th.

Kaiser said his customers will probably call ahead, then use a buzzer at the window when they arrive. The new policy benefits customers who fear exposure to the virus.

“To me, it would allow people that are concerned about being around others,” Kaiser said. “I wanted to make it as convenient for them as possible.”

Store owners who belong to the statewide industry organization Kansas Association for Responsible Liquor Laws, are trying to limit the virus’ spread by reducing congestion and doing extra cleaning, said Kaiser, who is a member.

“From what I understand, at this point,” he said, “it doesn’t look like the state is going to make stores shut down.”

The new policy should allay immediate worries that liquor stores may be closed by the state, Rathbun said.

“That’s still a fear, unfortunately, but I feel like this movement keeps us open longer,” he said. “This may force us to close our lobbies; maybe that’s their plan down the road anyway.”

Debbi Beavers, the state’s director of Alcoholic Beverage Control in Topeka, said in her memo she was exercising the director’s broad discretionary powers governing traffic in alcoholic liquors.

“With this in mind, many in the industry have recently expressed concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on licensees that sell alcoholic liquor to the public, specifically involving the potential closure of such businesses in light of increasing social distancing requirements,” Beavers said in the memo.

Effective immediately, a licensee may make “curbside” sales to customers, subject to all existing provisions of the Kansas Liquor Control Act and the Kansas Club and Drinking Establishment Act, the memo said.

It goes on to say that for the duration of this policy only, the payment and physical delivery of the alcoholic liquor may occur on or off of the licensed premises, subject to the additional guidelines described below.

“This order means that sales to underage individuals, sales below cost, and similar provisions are still strictly prohibited. Licensees shall remain restricted to those types of sales specifically authorized by their license.

“Drinking establishments and class A clubs, class B clubs may sell bottles of beer or wine curbside. For the duration of this policy only, beer or wine sold in this fashion needs to be opened on the licensed premises and properly sealed, but does not need to be partially consumed on the licensed premises.

“To accommodate these curbside sales, the licensee shall designate specific ’to-go’ parking stalls or similar locations, which must all be located within a 50-foot radius of the entrance to their licensed premises.

“Sales of any kind (i.e. payment or delivery of alcoholic liquor) occurring outside of this 50-foot radius are strictly prohibited.

“This policy shall only apply to the following license types: retail liquor store, drinking establishment, class A club, class B club, farm winery, microbrewery, microdistillery and producer,” the memo said.