By CHRIS HARRIS, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
Last week, Somerset’s top alcohol official wasn’t sure when stores seeking to sell hard liquor would hear who got licenses to do so.
It appears that puzzle is starting to become clearer.
Nathan Jones, public information officer with the Kentucky Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), confirmed for the Commonwealth Journal on Thursday that one such license authorizing the retail sale of distilled spirits and wine in Somerset was “active.”
That license belongs to the Rite-Aid drug store, according to Jones.
A call was placed to Rite-Aid, located on South U.S. 27 at the intersection with Oak Hill Road, for additional information, but local store personnel declined to comment, other than to direct a reporter to the company’s corporate offices.
A manager at another license candidate, however, was more forthcoming. John Burkhalter, store manager at the local Walgreen’s drug store on South U.S. 27 at the intersection with Langdon Street, confirmed that his store had been “approved” for a license, but didn’t have it in hand yet.
“We did find out today from (Somerset’s ABC administrator) Nick Bradley that we’d been approved,” said Burkhalter, “but we don’t know when we’ll receive it. We have to go through certain things inspection-wise before we can put (alcohol products) in the store.”
Burkhalter said he didn’t expect the inspection process to be completed “any earlier than Monday.”
The Commonwealth Journal contacted Bradley for comment, but did not receive a response by presstime.
So far, that’s two licenses out of five accounted for — both going to national chain drug stores. The “Retail Liquor Package” license is what’s called a “quota license,” meaning only a limited amount of them may be issued to a “wet” community, according to Kentucky law.
The state ABC office set Somerset’s number at five such licenses in the days following the June 26 option election, which allowed the sale of alcohol in town for the first time since Prohibition.