The Iowa Senate has rejected the idea of streamlining the process for convenience stores to sell liquor.
Beer and wine can be sold in convenience stores today, but stores which sell "distilled spirits" must install a second entry door and a separate cash register for the sale of that liquor. The idea of getting rid of that second door and second cash register was debated late this afternoon in the state senate.
Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, talked at length about his youthful drinking expeditions and his adulthood tradition of a morning coffee with a dash of the alcoholic "Bailey’s Irish Cream." There was a good bit of chuckling and clapping at this point.
But then Senator Nancy Boettger, a Republican from Harlan, lectured her colleagues, arguing the proposed change would make it easier for kids to pull into a convenience store, get a bottle of liquor, and drive away.
"This has effects on the lives of people in this state and we are just laughing about it," she said. "…Kids drive around in cars and drink in cars. You ask kids where they’re drinking, they’re drinking in cars. This is going to facilitate that. Do you want to be a part of that? I don’t."
All 18 Republicans and seven Democrats voted to keep the status quo. But Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs argues the status quo makes it easier for underage kids to sneak in the side entrance and steal the hooch.
"It’s easier for…10 kids to come in, wander around the store, some of them getting chips and one of them to wander over there and grab two quart bottles of vodka and run out of the store," Gronstal says.
Gronstal maintains a single entrance and a single cash register would help convenience shop clerks keep a closer eye on the liquor.
"It’s a little, tiny change and Republicans decided to play political games," Gronstal says. "It’s that simple."
Gronstal, however, does not expect the senate to revisit this issue in the last week of the 2009 legislative session. According to the state Alcoholic Beverages Division, there are 34 convenience stores in Iowa which have a separate entrance and a separate cash register for the sale of distilled spirits, like vodka.
Boettger, the Republican leading the opposition, claimed a powerful "entity" had asked for the change, but she would not reveal the name of the company.
"It’s very clear that this entity stands to make money from it," Boettger told reporters. A check of lobbyist records provided by a Republican staffer indicates three lobbyists for the Kum ‘N Go convenience store chain had registered in favor of the bill.