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Going Wet

Oldham County moves forward
with new alcohol ordinance

License applications to be accepted beginning March 3

LA GRANGE, Ky. (March 2016) – Since the passing of a wet-dry vote to allow expanded alcohol sales in Oldham County. Ky., on Dec. 29, many in the county have been prepared to move forward in compliance. With a setback or two seemingly out of the way, officials are planning to accept license applications soon, turning the long wait into a reality, despite a pending lawsuit filed to try and stop it.
A second reading of the countywide ordnance took place Feb. 16 by Fiscal Court, and “the ordinance was passed,” said Oldham County Judge-Executive David Voegele. “We are prepared to go forward and accept applications on March 3.”
The applications he referred to would be from business owners seeking a license to sell alcohol in packaged liquor stores. Voegele only expects three to five businesses to apply for licenses.

David Voegele

“The magistrates voted unanimously to accept the alcohol ordinance,” said Scott Whitehouse, chairman of the Oldham County Expanded Alcohol Sales Committee. “The first licenses can be issued by the ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) by the first week in March.”
It is unclear whether a lawsuit filed by Crestwood resident Patrick Vincent will have any impact on the ordinance. The lawsuit claims that county officials did not have enough petitions to move forward with the special election and that they did not advertise it in accordance with state law. County Attorney John Carter has said that unless the referendum is ruled invalid, the application process can continue.
More than 9,000 residents participated in the Dec. 29 referendum, with about 64 percent voting in favor of expanded alcohol sales.
Presently, Judge Voegele is acting as the county administrator alcohol sales for Oldham County, said Whitehouse. Voegele said there were many factors that had to be considered when writing the ordinance and before handing out a license.
The committee that drafted the ordinance looked at suggestions made by the ABC in Frankfort and at existing ordinances from throughout the state. Factors taken into consideration include areas where liquor stores can go in a region. “You have to identify the place,” he said, and the business owner may have to sign a lease he does not already own the property.
To apply for a license, applicants must publish a notice in the local newspaper stating their intent and submit the application with basic information as well as what they plan to do with the license. The application process requires a background check as well. If approved, a license takes effect July 1 and expires June 30 of the following year.
For something such as beer, which is a malted beverage, “there are no limits on the number of places that can get a license to sell it,” Voegele said. The alcohol ordinance had to go through the same approval process as all other county laws.
Kim Buckler, Executive Director of Oldham County Tourism, was on the committee that wrote specific guidelines for the ordinance. Buckler said she had expressed an interest in it and been a part of the previous wet vote committee. “Judge Voegele came back and asked me to be on it to make sure tourism was covered in the ordinance,” said Buckler.
“I’ve done a lot of research and kept up with it from the beginning,” she said. “Tourism is really happy with the outcome of the ordinance.”
She said the committee tried hard to “address all issues and concerns the community had.” They took into consideration issues that are always brought up, such as adult entertainment. “We went back and redid that too,” in an effort to address any future concerns so as not to have to rewrite the ordinance again. The committee also had to try to anticipate new businesses opening in the future, which would be covered under the ordinance,” said Buckler.
Before the Dec. 29 election, the committee sent out 6,500 postcards to voters to remind them to vote and placed 100 yard signs around the county in an effort to distribute the word about the vote. Oldham County lies between two wet counties, Henry and Jefferson.
Tourism wanted to be able to offer alcohol to a certain extent for events that have out-door seating and festivals, Buckler said, “without turning Oldham County into a bar community.”
She said tourism was “well represented. We want to be attractive and friendly but still maintain the integrity of the county.”
The ordinance was needed “for tourism economic development,” said Buckler. “We have a lot of good attraction changes coming up. I consider people who live within the county tourists as well. It’s good for them, also.”
She is working out the details of the possible opening of a winery in Oldham County that would be “the only winery of its kind in Kentucky,” she said. “We have a lot of things in the works.”
The ordinance will be “very good for tourism,” said Whitehouse, who was not part of the ordinance committee. He said it was his job to “try and get a successful vote to happen, then leave it up to the voters to decide.”
The wet-dry vote has been an issue in Oldham County for some time. In 2003, the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development pushed for a community initiative to allow alcohol to be sold by the glass in licensed restaurants.
In 2013, the City of La Grange passed an ordinance allowing alcohol sales for packaged alcohol within the city limits of La Grange. Because this law was based on population, there are only three licenses that have been issued within the city.
The push to open up the entire county to additional alcohol sales had been in the works since the summer of 2014. Alcohol sales were heavily restricted and alcohol could only be purchased by the drink in restaurants and several areas including Yew Dell Botanical Gardens and the Oldham County Country Club, two facilities that had special allowances for less restrictive alcohol sales.
Under the alcohol ordinance that was just passed, any licensed business selling alcohol and food is required to gain at least half of its income from food sales and seat at least 50 people. Previously, businesses had to gain 70 percent of income from food and 30 percent from alcohol, and seat 100 people. It was hard for some mom-and-pop establishments to afford 100 seats in their businesses to meet the regulations, Buckler said.
The ordinance contains provisions that ban gambling, drinking contests, all-you-can-drink specials and listening to police radio on property licensed to sell alcohol. Businesses licensed to sell alcohol are ordered to keep 100 feet between their front door and the front door of any nearby church, school, daycare or nursery.

Alcohol can be sold on Sunday, but only from noon to midnight. It can be sold from 8 a.m. to midnight on all other days of the week.

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