City takes on licensing for alcohol sales at special events

Carla Slavey

Somerset City Councilors listen in on the discussion of whether to create an Entertainment Destination Center. From left are Donna Hunley, John Ricky Minton, Jim Mitchell, David Godsey and Amanda Bullock.

Somerset City Council agreed Monday night to take on the licensing of alcohol sale permits during festivals or events - over the objection of some council members.

The ordinance was approved 8-4, allowing the city of Somerset to create an Entertainment Destination Center, an office that would allow temporary alcohol sale permits to be issued in conjunction with the Somerset Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) office.

The purpose is to speed up the procedure for the paperwork to issue those permits, according to City Attorney John Adams.

A process for issuing licenses already exists, Adams explained. Any business that wants to sell distilled spirits, wine or beer at an event which allows such sales can apply through an office in Frankfort.

This was the process in which alcohol sales were allowed at the Foodstock festival that took place in May.

Adams said of the local ordinance, "It doesn't change the law. You can still do festivals. You can still have temporary or non-permanent sales. ... It's just that we control more of the paperwork and the applications."

He also explained that, even if the city's Entertainment Destination Center ordinance didn't pass, Somerset festivals and events would likely continue to allow alcohol venders in.

"As far as the city festivals, I don't foresee the basic format being changed from what you saw back in May."

The four councilors who voted against the ordinance were Jerry Wheeldon, Jerry Girdler, Mike New and Tom Eastham.

Those who voted "no" seemed to understand that the change would not prevent the sale of alcohol. Still, in the case of both New and Girdler, their votes were based on their disapproval on alcohol sales in general.

Before the vote, New went so far as to say that he wouldn't vote for anything that promoted alcohol due to safety concerns.

Girdler's objection was that he wanted to keep alcohol "behind walls" and not in areas where it would be sold and consumed in front of children.

Adams reiterated, "This wouldn't change that. … This doesn't change the availability. What it really changes is we're where they apply to."

In other business, the council heard the first readings of two other ordinances. One would allow a zone change for 206 Jacksboro Street from a Residential-2 to a Residential-3 zoned property, meaning the property would be allowed to contain a large multi-family building such as an apartment.

The other ordinance would change the categorization of six EMS positions from non-hazardous to hazardous.

When the positions, called medical transport positions, were first created they were not approved through the Kentucky Retirement System (KRS) to be classified as hazardous, according to Somerset CFO Mike Broyles.

The personnel filling those positions meet the minimum requirement for an EMT position, which can be classified as hazardous and approved through KRS. Therefore, the ordinance would do away with the medical transport positions and bring those employees in as full EMTs.

That would, in turn, make those employees eligible for the higher retirement benefit percentage through the state's retirement plan.

Both measures will have a second reading and vote at a later date.