Commonwealth Journal

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January 28, 2013

Could lawmakers help city with ABC issue?

Somerset —  

Would Somerset’s state legislators be willing to look into a change in alcohol laws?
Maybe ... maybe not.
As the city prepares to try and hash out some kind of arrangement with the Kentucky Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) over the number of package liquor licenses the town can receive — if necessary, by legal action — the question of whether or not distribution of “quota licenses” is really the best practice.
State Rep. Tommy Turner told the Common-wealth Journal that’s not a law change he would want to tweak. 
“My thought is, this is not something I want to deal with,” he said.
Sen. Chris Girdler, who recently assumed the seat formerly held by Vernie McGaha in representing Pulaski County in Frankfort, can’t say for sure yet until he examines the issue further.
“I’m willing to look at all possibilities,” he told the Commonwealth Journal.
According to state law, Retail Liquor Package licenses (primarily applying to liquor stores selling distilled spirits and wine) and Retail Liquor Drink (primarily applying to bars and nightclubs) are quota licenses, meaning only a specific number of them can be allowed by a city. 
The state ABC office makes that determination and based on Somerset’s size and market factors, state alcohol officials decided that the city which went “wet” last June could have five liquor store licenses and five bar licenses apiece. 
Licenses to sell drinks by the glass in a restaurant environment or beer in stores are not bound by these limitations.
However, the ABC also sorted through the 17 applicants for the Retail Liquor Package license and selected the five businesses to receive one — meaning the state agency both selects how many such licenses a town gets and who should get them, as per Kentucky law.
Somerset Mayor Girdler has taken issue with the way his town was dealt with by Kentucky ABC in this process. Two national drug store chains and three smaller businesses were awarded the licenses. High-volume liquor retailer Liquor World was not ... and Girdler has told the Commonwealth Journal that the decision would cost the city a projected annual $150,000 in alcohol-based fee revenue.

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