After considering the idea last year, the Kansas State Fair Board is moving ahead with the drafting of legislation that could change how alcohol is consumed at the annual celebration of all things Kansas.
As the Topeka Capital-Journal’s Tim Carpenter reported last week: “Robin Jennison, manager of the Kansas State Fair, said during the meeting in Topeka a bill would be drafted for consideration by the 2020 Legislature granting authority to the fair board to decide whether to outline a central region where patrons could consume spirits. The idea is to make the zone less restrictive than the existing beer garden, he said.”
As we stated when this idea was mooted several months ago, the idea seems solid and potentially a good revenue generator for the fair. Legislators should give the bill their attention and support this session.
The basic problem is that the current beer garden setup at the fair doesn’t actually encourage responsible drinking. Instead, it can encourage individuals to pound several drinks in a short span of time in a small physical space.
Expanding the area in which alcohol can be consumed will hopefully change the equation. But it’s not as simple as figuratively expanding the beer garden to the fairground.
Carpenter noted that there’s a “prohibition in a statute on consumption areas that incorporate moving vehicles, including golf carts and ATVs routinely used by fair employees and volunteers.”
That language will need to be addressed in the legislation. As Jennison said, “The big kink is that if we made a common consumption area, the way that is defined is you’ve got to be closed to motor vehicle traffic. We need to have a modification of that.”
A slightly larger beer garden won’t be the answer. For a better and more profitable fair-going experience, those attending the state fair should be able to carry a beer around the grounds — within reason. We obviously don’t want to encourage over-consumption, and vendors at the fair should be clear on the shape of new rules.
A balance shouldn’t be difficult to find, however, and everyone can benefit.
We look forward to seeing the legislation produced, and we look forward to the debate in the House and Senate. The change will make the Kansas State Fair better and stronger this summer and in years to come.