Moving Along

Oldham Chamber makes goal
on alcohol petition

Now Fiscal Court must agree to
place issue up for a vote

LA GRANGE, Ky. (September 2015) – The Oldham County Chamber of Commerce has been pursuing an ordinance to expand alcohol sales for some time because of the opportunities it could afford. Now that it has the required 6,000 signatures needed, many believe it is just a matter of time before the project moves forward.
The signatures were turned in to Oldham County Clerk Julie Barr’s office for verification on Aug. 24, said Scott Whitehouse, chairman of the chamber’s Expanded Alcohol Sales Committee. “Once verified, it would go before Fiscal Court and a request made for a date to be set for the specific election.”
The committee mailed more than 30,000 petitions to Oldham County residents at the end of April. Only registered voters could fill them out.
Whitehouse is confident the petition will go before Fiscal Court in September, but “it’s up to Fiscal Court to set a specific date.” Assuming the vote is positive, Fiscal Court would work out specific rules to be in place in Oldham County, he said.
Presently, Oldham County is a “moist” county. If the ordinance passes, the county will transition into a “wet” county. Whitehouse believes this will provide many opportunities for Oldham County in the form of economic development activities.
Special events could be held as well as tastings for wineries, he said. Hotels interested in locating along I-71 could host cocktail hours for guests. Whitehouse said the county is currently losing revenue to Jefferson County, Ky., because residents have to drive to Jefferson County to purchase liquor.
Passing an ordinance would make alcohol “available closer to home. It’s also better for public safety.” People who choose to consume those products are going to pursue them, even if they have to cross county lines, said Whitehouse. He pointed out that studies show staying closer to home is safer.
In 2003, the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce pursued a community initiative allowing alcohol to be sold by the glass in licensed restaurants.
Packaged alcohol sales were not permitted until August 2013 after the City of La Grange passed an ordinance allowing alcohol sales for packaged alcohol within the city limits. Only three licenses that have been issued for liquor stores because the law is based on the population of the city.
There are eight alcohol licenses for restaurants, five beer licenses for retail and three licenses for liquor stores in La Grange.
Before limited alcohol sales, there were about half the number of restaurants. Whitehouse said he has seen more restaurants pop up within the county since alcohol sales were allowed by the glass.
As a result, “a number of restaurants have done well,” said Whitehouse. He cited Gustavo’s Mexican restaurant in Crestwood, which has experienced expansion “a couple of times over the last few years. It’s done well with the new rules.”
There are currently several restaurants within Oldham County that are able to sell alcohol by the drink. These restaurants must comply with the 70-30 rule, which means 70 percent of sales are food and 30 percent of sales are alcohol.
A special election would also impact the 70-30 law, reducing the requirements. More bars with less food could be added.
This issue has been important to the chamber for many reasons. Whitehouse said he has talked to a number of companies that were looking to locate in Oldham County but decided not to because “we look outdated with our alcohol regulations.”
Whitehouse continued, saying, “We have a patchwork of laws in the county right now.” There are many people who are not familiar with what he labeled “old-fashioned regulations.”

Whitehouse said there has not been a lot of opposition to the issue. “I’m sure there is some. It’s a very personal decision. I wouldn’t try to change someone’s mind if they are against it for personal reasons.”

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