Alcohol Awareness

Going ‘wet’ encourages Oldham County businesses to expand

Several have applied for alcohol license
in wake of wet vote

CRESTWOOD, Ky. (October 2016) – There’s no doubt the passing of a vote to allow Oldham County, Ky., to go wet has made a difference in the number of customers some businesses are getting through the door. Tourists are now encouraged even more to visit places such as the Kentucky Artisan Distillery and see a little more of the county.
“We’ve seen a large uptick in people coming in for tours,” said Liz Ratliff, Visitors Center Manager for Kentucky Artisan Distillery at 6230 Old Lagrange Rd. in Crestwood. “Before, we might go several days without giving tours, but now we’re doing several a day some days.”

David Voegele

The Visitors Center opened Labor Day 2015 after Jefferson’s Bourbon struck up a relationship with the Kentucky Artisan Distillery when looking for a home base for its operations. The Crestwood distillery owners, meanwhile, were looking for a bigger name in the bourbon world with whom to partner.
The Kentucky Artisan Distillery was developed by Chris Miller, Michael Loring and Stephen Thompson, three men who used their extensive backgrounds in spirits and beverage processing to create a destination place to visit.
Since June, Ratliff said there has been a steady increase in the number of customers they see each week. Since the changes in licensing went into effect, they’ve “seen an increase in revenue by being able to sell bottles and give tastings after tours.”
Tours are given Tuesday through Saturdays for $10. For $2 more, customers can now enjoy four samples and keep their glass. Tours include a look at the bottling line, full distillery, laboratory and end in the tasting room.
Being able to offer samples after tours is a result of the Dec. 29, 2015, passage of a vote to allow expanded alcohol sales in Oldham County. A second reading of the countywide ordinance took place by Oldham County Fiscal Court on Feb. 16, and magistrates voted unanimously to accept the alcohol ordinance.
Applications from business owners seeking a license to sell alcohol in packaged liquor stores were accepted by March 3. Since that time, about 15-17 people have applied for a license, said Oldham County Judge-Executive David Voegele. 

Liz Ratliff

Obtaining a license is “a two-step process,” he said. Applicants must apply in the county first, then fill out the same forms with the state. After the county signs off, “you have to take it to the state and get signed off there. If the state declines it, we won’t issue it either,” said Voegele.
Each license has a charge, and there are 20 different combinations of licenses and things you can have, Voegele explained. For example, applications can be for beer, beer-liquor-wine or distillery only.
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 document how the sale of liquor at their business will impact the area. The application process requires a background check as well.
The waiting period differs for each license, depending on the application type. Once applying for a license, applicants “should expect to wait several weeks or longer,” he said.
The wait is not so long for someone wanting to get a one-day license for something such as selling beer at a festival, which might take two to three weeks.
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. The push to open up the entire county to additional alcohol sales had been ongoing since the summer 2014. Alcohol sales were heavily restricted, and alcohol could only be purchased by the drink in restaurants and several other locations, including Yew Dell Botanical Gardens and the Oldham County Country Club. Those two facilities had special allowances for less restrictive alcohol sales.

Photo provided

Liz Ratliff is pictured at Kentucky Artisan Distillery in Crestwood, Ky., during a recent tour by the Whiskey Chicks of Louisville.

Under the alcohol ordinance that was passed earlier this year, 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.
Since the “program is new, it hasn’t generated too much revenue at this point,” said Voegele. The county receives a 5 percent sales tax on all alcohol sales; revenue should increase over time.
That percentage is used to enforce laws, administer the program and educate the public. 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.
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.
So far, there have been no problems because of the issuance of licenses, as some were afraid there would be prior to the vote, said Voegele.
As in the case of the Kentucky Artisan Distillery, the passage of the ordinance “has been good for tourism. It will attract a lot of people who might not otherwise stop in Oldham County,” Voegele said. 

Ratliff said, “We now have an average of 200 visitors a week sometimes, whereas in the past, some weeks it was only 50 or less. And the numbers are only going up. We have a steady business every day.”

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