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Serving Spirits

Oldham County's new alcohol law
has taps flowing on Main Street

Others awaiting license approval

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (June 2004) – Oldham County ‘s long-awaited effort to allow alcohol sales in restaurants that seat 100 or more people has become a reality.
Despite its often-times controversial passage during a fall referendum, the measure wound its way through the legal system and was finally implemented for the first time in May when the La Grange-based Hometown Pizza began serving beer.

Ky edition cover

Ky. Edition cover

Since then, two more restaurants – Westport General Store and Heather’s On The River – have obtained their licenses to serve alcohol, and more are awaiting approval of their applications. The Oldham County Chamber of Commerce backed the measure as a way to boost business and try to stop the flow of travel to nearby Louisville to order beer or wine with a meal.
“We needed to do this, from a business standpoint, to keep up with the changing population demographics of our county,” said chamber president Joe Schoenbaechler.
As part of the changing times in Oldham County’s dining establishments, many are eager to sample the fare at the new Irish Rover Too, which after a complete renovation is scheduled to open June 3 at 117 E. Main St. in La Grange. The restaurant will be the second for owners Siobhan and Michael Reidy, who opened the first Irish Rover nearly 11 years ago on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville’s Crescent Hill area. Siobhan Reidy, whose father is Oldham County District 5 Magistrate Duane Murner, said the menu at the La Grange restaurant will be similar to that of the one in Louisville. The fare is authentic Irish pub cuisine. Full bar service will be offered. The Irish Rover will be the fourth restaurant in Oldham County to serve alcoholic beverages under the new Alcoholic Beverage Control ordinance.
Lou Shaffer, owner of Old Louisville Style Chili Parlor & Fish House in La Grange, and Dan and Jean Smith, owners of A Little Taste of Heaven in Crestwood, are hoping to file an application to eventually serve alcohol.
The handful of Oldham restaurants now serving or planning to serve alcoholic beverages differ in what is offered. Some serve beer, wine and spirits on a limited basis, while others offer a full bar. Hometown Pizza serves beer only and does not offer any type of alcohol service in Crestwood because the restaurant there does not meet the 100-seat minimum criteria.

Michael Reidy

Photo by Ruth Wright

Irish Rover II's Michael
Reidy pours a beer.

When its license is approved, A Little Taste of Heaven will serve beer, wine and liquor but not to the extent of having bottles upon bottles of every variety, owner Dan Smith said. “Our intention is not to become a full-fledged bar. We’re here to supplement our restaurant business, not to go into the bar business,” he said.
Old Louisville Style Chili Parlor will operate similarly. “I’m not going to have a full bar. We will probably be serving beer and then maybe some wine and specialty drinks,” said Shaffer, who did not foresee any problems with getting his restaurant’s liquor license approved. “I was fortunate; I met the criteria of having the 100 seats. The 30 percent alcohol won’t be a problem,” he said, referring to the requirement that alcohol sales comprise no more than 30 percent of gross receipts.
Although Westport General Store will offer full bar service, it will continue to focus on its food service, said owner Will Crawford. The restaurant offers a wide variety of food, including everything from fried bologna sandwiches to beef tenderloin with Dijon mustard sauce. He has hired Harold Baker Jr., former chef of the four-star Galt House Flagship Restaurant and Indigo Gourmet Cafe, to help make that happen.
“The liquor is not going to make us. What we’re concentrating on is our food quality. We see the alcohol as just a way to enhance that,” he said.
Still, Crawford admitted that alcohol service will open a door to people who might not otherwise travel to Westport for a meal.
“We’re pretty isolated where we are, and for us to make it out here we need to bring people in from the La Grange and Louisville area,” said Crawford. “One thing that we’ve found is that even with the quality of food we’re offering, some people wouldn’t choose to turn this way down Hwy. 42 (without alcohol service). They’d go to Louisville instead.”

Guinness

Photo by Ruth Wright

Irish Rover II's features Guinness on tap.

By mid-May, all liquor license applications received by the office of Judge-Executive Mary Ellen Kinser, the county’s ABC administrator, had been processed according to Kinser’s assistant, Sharon Herndon. The process, which includes county level background checks and building inspections as well as state level inspections and final approval, has so far averaged between 30 to 45 days, Herndon said.
Although licenses have been issued to a couple of La Grange restaurants under the county ordinance, the city has decided to adopt its own, separate ABC ordinance, which will take precedence once it is established.
“When and if our ordinance is approved by the state, the city would credit those restaurants (in La Grange) for the fees that they’ve paid and would be looking to take over jurisdiction and handle the renewals,” said county attorney Wade Helm.
The proposed La Grange ABC ordinance differs slightly but was based on the Oldham County and City of Danville ABC ordinances. Danville, located in Boyle County, is one of just a few Kentucky cities qualified by election, like Oldham County, to allow limited alcohol sales.
One reason La Grange decided to adopt its own ordinance was to lower some fees, since the city, unlike the county, charges a business tax, according to city council member and ABC ordinance committee chair Lucy Ricketts.
“The city of La Grange is the only government entity in Oldham County that charges a business tax. Anyone who came into La Grange would have to pay that 5 percent and on top of that pay a business license tax. We felt that that was unfair to the businesses coming in,” Ricketts said.
The city’s proposed license fees are $600 for new licenses and $200 for renewals, $400-$550 less than what the county now charges. Also proposed by the city is a regulatory license fee of 2.5 percent of gross alcohol sales receipts. The county charges 5 percent for the same fee.
Other differences with the La Grange ordinance include different hours of sale on Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 1 p.m. instead of noon to midnight, and a different ABC administrator – the police chief instead of the county judge-executive. Also, fees collected by the city will go toward any additional city law enforcement officers that may be needed to administer the ordinance, said Ricketts.
A second reading of the proposed La Grange ABC ordinance will be held at the city council’s June 7 meeting. If passed, it will be forwarded to the state ABC for final approval. Helm said it would be his recommendation that the council allow 60 to 90 days for the ordinance to take effect.

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