Commonwealth Journal

February 28, 2014

Beer sold in a Burnside store for first time in 80 years

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Burnside — Burnside was the first Pulaski town to legally sell alcohol since the end of prohibition — but Somerset beat them to the punch in the retail market.

On Friday, Burnside evened the score.

A container of beer was sold over a counter in a Burnside store for the first time in over 80 years, at the Burnside Shell station on South U.S. 27, just before the entrance to General Burnside Island State Park.

The 12-pack of Bud Lite was sold at approximately 8 a.m. to a customer who had requested to be the first (no name was available), according to store manager Ken Patel. The first shipment arrived approximately a couple of hours earlier; more product arrived throughout the day.

That was possible because Burnside Shell was the first to be awarded a Retail Beer and Malt Beverage license, approved by the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), and signed off on by the City of Burnside on Thursday.

“We were very excited that we got the first in the town,” said Patel. “I did not expect that we were going to get it.”

In his three years at the store, Patel has seen his tourist traffic fluctuate. He’s anticipating getting back some of what he lost to Somerset after the larger town went “wet” in 2012.

“A lot of our regular customers, I talked to them and they stopped over there (in Somerset),” said Patel. “I hope they will come back. (Being close to Burnside Island) will really help me out.”

Burnside Shell isn’t the only store that will be selling beer — although right now, it’s the only one fully licensed to do so.

According to Burnside Police Chief Craig Whitaker, the city’s ABC administrator, there are three other businesses in “the only town on Lake Cumberland” that are waiting a response from the state alcohol control offices regarding approval of their beer and malt beverage licenses.

Those include the Burnside Marathon station; Southern Express Valero; and South U.S. 27 Shell.

All but one sent off their applications for their non-quota licenses at close to the same time, noted Whitaker. However, a logjam at the state level means the rate at which licenses are issued could be unpredictable.

“It’s depending on how quickly the state can process the applications,” said Whitaker. “There’s been a massive influx of communities going wet and the ABC is recoiling trying to keep up.”

Also in the state’s hands: A decision about the town’s quota licenses, or those that are limited in number. Burnside was awarded two such licenses for Retail Liquor licenses, allowing a business to serve wine and distilled spirits instead of just beer and similar malt beverages.

In addition to determining how many quota licenses a Kentucky community gets, the state ABC also determines who gets them. This has led to a year-long struggle with the City of Somerset which is currently making its way through the court system, as Somerset has challenged the state to explain its criteria.

Somerset was awarded five licenses, but not to the high-volume, economically impactful applicants (such as Richmond-based Liquor World) that they were hoping for. Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler has called the state’s selection process “arbitrary and capricious” and has argued that the town should be eligible to receive more than five quota licenses based on overall county size.

Whitaker said that “everything is in a holding pattern” as far as the quota licenses go, with the state poised to make the next move.

“What the state will do is send investigators down to complete a field report on each applicant,” said Whitaker. “All that is compiled and sent on to the state administrator to make a determination on who gets the licenses. It’s been rather interesting, this process.”

There have been 11 applicants for the two available licenses — substantially more than applied for the non-quota Retail Beer and Malt Beverage license.

“Yeah, absolutely,” said Whitaker when asked if he was surprised by the high number of liquor license hopefuls. “I wasn’t surprised for the non-quota licenses, but I was surprised at the number of applicants compared to the number of available quota licenses.”