Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Business Owner Frustrated by Antiquated Liquor Law

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Business Owner Frustrated by Antiquated Liquor Law

Article excerpt

Denise Selbee-Koch’s small Topeka business focuses on empowering women.

She can’t get a liquor license because of her husband.

Kansas law forbids the spouse of a law enforcement officer from selling liquor, a relic of the state’s Prohibition past. Selbee-Koch, who is married to the police chief in Valley Falls, wants to change that.

She co-owns Dirty Girl Adventures with Jennifer Woerner. The organization specializes in guided outdoors adventure that is accessible for all ages and fitness levels. The goal is to encourage women to get outside.

The 6-year-old venture led to the opening of a retail location in January 2019 in the North Topeka arts and entertainment district. The store sells outdoor goods, hosts health and wellness classes, organizes activities on the nearby Kansas River and is a venue for live music.

Diversification, she said, is key for helping small businesses thrive.

“A large number of our clientele are middle-aged women,” Selbee-Koch said. “They like to drink wine. We can’t serve wine.”

She testified Tuesday in a legislative hearing on a proposal that would remove the restriction for spouses of law enforcement officers to obtain a license for a drinking establishment under certain conditions. The officer’s jurisdiction would have to be in another county.

Selbee-Koch said she was frustrated when she learned of the restriction after filling out her application. The paperwork asks for spouse information.

“My first thought was, ‘Wow, we’re going to get extra credit points because we’re super ethical and we’re on the side of the law,’ but no,” she said.

Selbee-Koch said her husband of 33 years has no more influence in the community than she has. She questioned the purpose of the restriction.

Rep. John Barker, a Republican from Abilene and retired judge, said the restriction is a holdover from an era in which Kansas had pockets of dry communities, especially in rural areas.

“The concern was to keep law enforcement above reproach,” Barker said. …

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