By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Just under 100 votes set a new precedent for Corbin to have packaged alcohol sales Tuesday.
Set on Valentine’s Day, approximately 1,676 voters within Corbin city limits came out to cast their vote on whether the city should allow packaged liquor sales. Those voting ‘yes’ to the measure tallied just 98 more votes than the nay votes.
With the vote, Corbin will soon be able to legally sell beer, wine and liquor within city limits. Beer can also be sold at grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations and supermarkets after obtaining a license to do so.
Like London, Corbin currently can sell alcohol by the drink at restaurants which seat 100 or more persons. Termed “moist,” London and Corbin were the only stops along the I-75 corridor between Richmond and the Tennessee state line where alcohol is served in restaurants.
With Barbourville recently voting ‘no’ to alcohol sales and Corbin saying ‘yes,’ the attention now turns to London’s special election slated for March 6 — less than three weeks away.
London’s ballot will ask city residents if they approve of alcohol sales within city limits. This would allow packaged liquor, wine and beer to be sold at packaged liquor stores. A yes majority would also allow grocery stores, convenience stores and gas stations to sell packaged beer.
Attorney Steven Humphress with the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control division said that London would qualify for “three or four” packaged liquor stores if the measure passes. He clarified the state’s procedure in establishing the number of liquor stores set in cities, although he did say the ABC board reviews by a “case by case” status. Humphress said the number of liquor outlet stores is based on having one liquor store per 2,300 residents in the area of the vote, allowing three to four liquor stores in London. He said previously the ABC board took in the entire county’s population during a wet-dry vote, but that policy had been nixed “30 years ago” with the “1 per 2,300” percentage now ruling the numbers for alcohol sales.
But even if the vote is ‘yes’ in London, it could be months before alcohol is actually sold.
“It usually takes at least 60 days after verification of the votes before licenses are approved and the sale of alcohol actually begins,” Humphress said. “And there are several different types of licenses that have to be approved before alcohol can be sold.”
For instance, stores that sell beer must apply for a license to do so but they are required to maintain at least $5,000 in food inventory.
“Even if you primarily sell gas, you still must have $5,000 in food inventory,” Humphress said.
He added that stores wishing to sell alcoholic beverages fall under specific licensing policies.
“Alcohol sales require different licenses. There’s one for distilled spirits, which is your hard liquor, then there’s one for malt beverages which is beer, and there’s another one to sell wine,” he added. “You can also have a limited restaurant alcohol license, which is what you have now for restaurants that seat more than 100 people.”
Another consideration for voters is the regulations overseeing operations of the alcohol sales and outlets.
“As a fourth class city, London would not be able to sell alcohol by the drink other than a restaurant seating 100 people. In other words, there would be no bars that serve alcohol by the drink, according to KRS (Kentucky Revised Statutes) 81.010,” Humphress said. “The city can have another election to sell liquor by the drink in bars, but it would require a second election for that to happen.”
Although alcohol sales are governed by the ABC board, the city government has a definite say in what happens if the measure does pass in London. Humphress said the city council can pass an ordinance to suit their needs concerning alcohol sales as well as setting their own regulatory fee which averages between 3 to 5 percent. The money the city takes in from alcohol sales can only be used for law enforcement purposes, whether it be providing equipment for the police department or supplementing salaries of officers and administrators who deal specifically with those businesses selling alcoholic beverages to ensure compliance with state and local laws.
Prior to Manchester saying ‘yes’ to packaged liquor sales late last year, a huge section of southeastern Kentucky prohibited alcohol sales other than in large restaurants, running from Hazard in the east and Bowling Green in the west. The Richmond to Tennessee state line bordered the north-south alcohol prohibition.