Oldham County Moist Vote

Oldham residents pass
'moist' referendum

Liquor-by-the-drink vote
already attracting new business

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (December 2003) – The Irish Rover, an authentic Irish pub located in Louisville’s Crescent Hill area, may soon have a second location in Oldham County. Owners Siobhan and Michael Reidy intend to purchase the building located at 117 E. Main St. in La Grange, formerly known as Mac’s on Main, where they hope to open early next year Oldham County’s first pub.
The Reidy’s, who have operated the popular Louisville pub for 10 years, are taking advantage of the new liquor-by-the-drink referendum passed by voters in November.

Wet-Dry Ky. map

Wet-dry counties in Kentucky.

Although the details are still being worked out by local and state officials, it won’t be long before diners will be able to order a glass of wine or a pint of ale with their dinners at a few Oldham County restaurants. “Few” is the key word. The county is not currently known for its large, chain-type eateries. But many, including Oldham County Chamber of Commerce officials, are hoping that will all change.
The chamber, which led the petition drive to get the question of limited alcohol sales on this year’s ballot, centered their campaign around restaurants, and how allowing liquor-by-the-drink would both benefit existing restaurants and attract new ones, like the Irish Rover.
A few local restaurant owners, including Lou Shaffer, owner of Old Louisville Style Chili and Fish House in La Grange, and Jean and Dan Smith, owners of A Little Taste of Heaven in Crestwood, backed the chamber’s position and were among the more outspoken liquor-by-the-drink proponents. Both restaurant owners have expressed their intention to serve alcoholic beverages, and both restaurants meet the 100-seat minimum requirement.
“We need to stay with the times,” said Jean Smith, whose downtown Crestwood restaurant has been in business for three years. “We’ve already added two new dining rooms (within the past six months),” Smith said. “We’re going to apply (for a license) and we’re going to go through all the protocols.”
Exactly what those “protocols” will be is what county officials are now trying to determine. “We’re going through the implementation ordinance now,” said Oldham County Chamber of Commerce president Joe Schoenbaechler, who along with county government officials met recently with representatives of the Kentucky Alcoholic Beverage Control from Frankfort. The ABC will help the county implement the new law and determine the extent of the local government’s authority.
One option that has been proposed is processing of liquor licenses and other administrative functions by Oldham County Fiscal Court, since by statue the county judge becomes the local administrator and all applications must be first processed at the local level before being forwarded to Frankfort for final approval.
Two types of liquor licenses will be available: a malt beverage license and a wine and distilled liquor license. Restaurants may apply for one or both. Interestingly, the same kind of malt beverage, or beer, license applies to both restaurants and package stores like Kroger, according to Schoenbaechler. This means that, technically, a restaurant could sell a six-pack to go. Local ordinances will likely be enacted to prohibit this type of sale, since that wasn’t the intention of the new law, Schoenbaechler said.
Now that the vote has passed, the next question on the minds of many is how long will it take to implement the change. Although the exact time is not certain, Schoenbaechler estimated that it would be mid to late February before diners will be able to order beer, wine or spirits at Oldham County restaurants. The chamber plans to hold a public meeting soon to provide more information to restaurant owners and county citizens. The chamber will also continue to update restaurants on the process as information becomes available.
On its website, the Kentucky Alcoholic Beverage Control lists six different categories for alcohol sales: dry, limited, moist, golf course territory and winery. Of the state’s 120 counties, Oldham will be one of 12 designated by the ABC as “limited,” meaning that beer, wine and spirits may be served, but only in restaurants that seat at least 100 diners and derive at least 70 percent of their revenue from food sales.



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