Commonwealth Journal

October 27, 2012

No licenses for liquor stores are on the horizon

By CHRIS HARRIS, CJ Staff Writer
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

Pulaski Countians looking to pick up some bubbly to take home for New Year’s Eve will once again have to go out-of-town to do so.
While convenience store beer sales have been plentiful, and local restaurants are starting to get into the alcohol business as well, there’s been no sign of liquor stores on the horizon yet.
And, as far as Nick Bradley, Somerset’s ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) Administrator knows, there’s no timetable for when locals might start seeing them.
However, having stores that are able to sell wine, champagne, vodka, rum, and other harder liquors in a retail setting is unlikely to happen by the end of the year, he said.
“That would be too optimistic,” said Bradley. “None of those stores would be turnkey (or with a ready-to-use facility). It would be quite a bit of work for any stores that might get those (licenses).”
That’s largely because the state ABC office is tasked with sorting out just which businesses will be awarded the coveted “Retail Liquor Package” license, which is considered a “quota license.” That means the state sets a specific number of licenses of that type that can be given out; for Somerset, the selected number was five.
However, 13 different entities have filed notices of intent with the Commonwealth Journal to seek the Retail Liquor Package license, allowing them to sell wine and hard liquor. So the state is busy sorting out those applications currently.
Contributing to the delay is the fact that several other Kentucky cities have held “wet”/“dry” elections this year, or expanded their legal alcohol sales, suggested Bradley.
“There are so many cities going through this right now,” he said. “Whenever we get the word from the state as far as any kind of decision (more could be said), but we just don’t know much of anything at this point.”
Bradley’s best guess was that more might be known by the middle of December.
A call to the state ABC office for further clarification was not immediately returned on Friday.
Businesses seeking non-quota licenses — or licenses that don’t have a cap on the number than can be given out — have gotten the ball rolling, however. According to Bradley, 14 beer licenses have been given out, including convenience stations and larger grocery stores.
Certain restaurants have been awarded licenses to sell beer and liquor licenses (this is similar to what Burnside already allows for restaurants of a certain seating capacity, and is different from the Retail Liquor Drink licenses, which primarily refer to bars). Mexican restaurants Casa Grande and El Charro have theirs, as does Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q, said Bradley. Ruby Tuesday and Tumbleweed are still waiting for theirs, as is J. Gumbo’s downtown, which is “in the situation of figuring out if they had enough seats to qualify” under the guidelines for a Restaurant Drink license.
The Restaurant Drink license allows for the sale of liquor and wine by the drink in restaurants with a seating capacity of 100 and food sales equal to 50 percent of gross receipts. Most casual dining chain restaurants would come under this description. 
As to why some restaurants have their licenses now and some are still waiting, Bradley said that factors include the order in which the businesses applied, whether or not they have all their paperwork “squared away,” and issues such as lease renewals, whether or not they have coolers and equipment yet, or certain business licenses.
“Some are just a little more turnkey than others, and some have things they still need to work through,” said Bradley. “Everything has to be there for the duration of that initial license. (A business) occasionally may have an instance where they need to redo a few things.”
Retail Liquor Drink licenses are also limited to a quota of five, though there have been far fewer applicants — only three to file notices of intent. Of those, the only already-existing business to apply, Briar Bowl, has a license, said Bradley.
“It’s obviously a much more difficult business,” said Bradley, “slower to get that business figured out and started.”