County moist law
has produced desired results
restaurants have opened,
spurring growth, officials say
"This is a win-win situation for the whole community."
Joe Schoenbaechler, OCEDA Director
Helen E. McKinney
(April 2006) Lainey Spooner sold her café
to open Station House Grille eight months ago as a result of the passage
of the moist vote in Oldham County. And she doesnt regret this
decision for one moment.
She sees the option to buy alcohol at a restaurant more
of a choice, for the patron. It encourages residents to spend
money in the county, rather than spending money out of the county for
those who wish to enjoy a beer or glass of wine with their meal.
There is no doubt that the passing of the 2004 moist vote in Oldham
County created more opportunity for new and existing restaurants within
the county. In the 11/2 years since it went into effect, a slow and
steady increase in the number of establishments that serve alcohol by
the drink has been on the rise, as part of the countys ongoing
Oldham County was a prohibition or completely dry county until January
2005. After much public debate, passage of the moist vote allowed restaurants
seating at least 100 patrons to serve alcohol by the drink. A permanent
sale of alcohol was allowed in restaurants that derived 70 percent of
their revenue from food.
These standards were set by the 2000 Kentucky General Assembly session,
which passed a law allowing large restaurants to sell alcohol by the
drink. Of the states 120 counties, 65 of them allow some alcohol
sales, according to the state Department for Alcoholic Beverage Control
Many communities that have long said no to alcoholic beverage sales
are now allowing some form of alcohol sales. Eight localities in Kentucky
have made their restaurants wet: Elizabethtown, Danville, Radcliff,
Georgetown, Central City, Kuttawa, Murray and nearby Shelby County.
Obtaining a license is a fairly easy process. To qualify, an ad must
be placed in the local newspaper and a background check must be run
and building inspections made. State level inspections and a final approval
are required. For the state of Kentucky, the ABC division of licensing
handles more than 12,000 new and renewal application requests each year.
by Don Ward
Spooner poses inside her Station House Grille restaurant in Crestwood.
Because of the moist ordinance, she sold her cafe to build the
restaurant at Crestwood Station on Hwy. 146.
Established restaurants, such as Hometown Pizza, the Westport
General Store and Heathers on the River, all obtained a license
to sell alcohol. The later business, located near Prospect, went from
a private club to a public restaurant as a result.
The sale of alcohol provides Spooners clientele with more options.
Customers dont have to buy a drink, she said. But the option is
there for those who wish to do so. Spooner estimated that 14 percent
of her business is derived from alcohol sales.
As a result, she now offers live music on Friday and Saturday nights
as an extra form of entertainment. Eating at a restaurant that serves
alcohol with food and entertainment are two reasons most individuals
travel out of the county to Louisville.
Spooner has also had special parties, such as a New Years Eve
and Valentines Day parties, at which patrons had the option
to purchase a glass of alcohol. Most of her customers are locals, although
she does see a few that stop off from I-71 and dine at her restaurant.
She feels her restaurant is unique enough to stand out in its offerings,
and it doesnt rely entirely on its alcohol sales to keep its doors
Lou Schafer, owner of Old Louisville Style Fish House & Chili Parlor,
said Spooner knew what she was doing when she opened Station House Grille.
Her business is one of the nicest upscale restaurants around,
said Schafer. She did things right.
Schafer opened his restaurant four years ago. Since this was before
passage of the moist vote, discussion of the upcoming vote at the time
influenced him to open his restaurant in Oldham County. Schafer said
he was 100 percent behind it. It was needed for the economy.
by Don Ward
Schafer expanded the seating in his
Old Louisville Style Chili Parlor and
Fish House to meet the requirements
of the moist ordinance.
He now sells beer and wine.
The impact of the vote aided his business immensely without
turning it into a bar, Schafer said. It enabled patrons to enjoy a beer
with their burger, chili or fish. Now we just need the locals
to support us, and not go into Louisville all the time to eat.
This vote was passed to support small independents, said Schafer. This
is still Oldham County, (with no) big chains coming in. The people who
live here are trying to make the county prosper and take care of it.
The restaurant-only option is attractive to localities that do not want
taverns or bars locating within their cities. It does afford opportunity
for steakhouses or chain restaurants, which will not open in an area
if a full-service bar cannot be included within the building, according
to Dan Meyer, executive director for the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers
of Kentucky, a trade association for alcoholic distributors in the state.
Meyer said the passing of the moist vote by a locality allows jobs
and additional dining and entertainment for the people living in those
places. He says the law can boost tourism and industrial development
in an area because companies considering locating to an area often will
consider the amount of restaurants and good dining in a town,
which make up the quality of life of an area.
Although the moist ordinance is still in its infancy, Meyer said most
localities that adopted it are pleased with the results. Most opponents
of the law fear a rise in crime and increased drinking among teenagers,
but thats just not the case, said Meyer.
Meyer said he met with residents of La Grange before the moist ordinance
The county passed more stringent liquor laws, he pointed
out. It is possible that after the surrounding counties view Oldham
Countys experience with the law, they may consider adopting a
similar one, said Meyer.
Joe Schoenbaechler, who was president of the Oldham County Chamber of
Commerce at the time of the moist vote, said proponents were trying
to create an atmosphere in Oldham County that would allow residents
to see the county not just as a place to live and shop, but also as
an entertainment venue. It was a way to entice the type of restaurants
to open inside the county boundaries that most people would travel the
extra miles to Louisville to visit.
Since then, the Applebees restaurant chain has announced
it is planning to open a new restaurant in La Grange very soon. It will
represent the second major restaurant chain, behind Beef OBradys
Family Sports Pub, to locate there.
Meanwhile, several independent Mexican, Asian and Italian restaurants
have opened around the county, some of which serve alcohol. Schoenbaechler
cites the moist vote as the reason. Passage of the moist vote was
a win-win situation for the whole community, he said.
Oldham County already had a pretty good mix of travelers from
counties east of us, said Schoenbaechler.
Schafer said the people of Oldham County voted for the moist vote. As
long as they remain in the county and support it, it will work; it will
fail if they continue to go to Louisville for the same reasons, he said.
Schafer serves assorted bottled beer and margaritas and pina coladas
in the summer months. He is considering the addition of a full bar,
since many have asked him to do so. He had to remodel his building upon
passage of the moist vote to accommodate the necessary requirement of
But Oldham County is not ready to support a fine dining place, said
Schafer. It is at the point where it has enough restaurants.
Bob Schmidt, owner of the Beef OBradys franchise in La Grange,
insists that his restaurant is only a sports pub, not a bar.
The main reason he opened a business in La Grange is because of a perceived
shortage of good quality restaurants serving alcohol, he said.
The growing population demographics of Oldham County also influenced
Many of Schmidts customers do not buy beer and wine. Only 15 percent
of his sales are derived from alcohol sales, he says. He stressed that
his restaurant is a family sports pub. There are a lot of kids
in here. We dont depend upon alcohol sales to stay in business,
He sees moderate competition with existing restaurants. Even the proposal
of a mixed-use center nearby that would include restaurants at
I-71s Exit 18 in Buckner does not worry Schmidt.
We offer a unique product, said Schmidt. He has many TVs
in his restaurant, and families often come to watch local sports teams
play. It is a smoke-free environment, and not a place just for the guys
to hang out in.
We need a break in the habit of everybody going to Louisville
to dine, said Schmidt. It would be better for the county.
Even with the abundance of new development in the county, Everyone
is bypassing Oldham County as a dining spot.
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