Oldham County Moist Ordinance

Oldham County Fiscal Court
passes final draft of 'moist' ordinance

Alcohol sales in restaurants could begin in May

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (April 2004) – After receiving public comment and making two minor adjustments, Oldham County Fiscal Court on March 2 passed an ordinance regulating locally the sale of alcoholic beverages. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Ordinance, drafted by the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce based on laws of similar counties, passed 7-1.
Abstaining from the vote due to family connections to restaurant ownership was District 5 Magistrate Duane Murner. Voting against the ordinance was District 6 Magistrate Bill Tucker. Prior to the vote, Tucker had moved to delete from the ordinance Sunday sales from noon to midnight. The motion died due to lack of a second.
Of the two changes that were made to the ordinance, one was likely the result of public testimony from two restaurant owners, Siobhan Reidy and Will Crawford.
Reidy, who with husband Michael Reidy owns The Irish Rover pub and restaurant in Louisville and who plans to open a second location on Main Street in La Grange, testified to members of the court that Article I, subparagraph (b), which required the restaurant’s kitchen and food service staff to be on duty for alcohol to be served, was contrary to the practice of most restaurants. The Irish Rover, said Reidy, along with many Louisville restaurants, closes its kitchen about one hour before closing its doors, allowing for kitchen staff to clean the kitchen and prepare for the next day’s business.
Forcing restaurants to keep their kitchens fully operational until closing is against common practice and presents an additional expense to restaurant owners, said Reidy. She added that The Irish Rover in Louisville offers a limited menu during its last hour of operation, a practice that she planned to continue in La Grange.
Reidy cited a telephone conversation with state ABC official Virginia Davis during which she was told that state statute contained no specific language regulating how late restaurants that serve alcohol must keep open their kitchens.
Judge-Executive Mary Ellen Kinser replied, saying that according to ABC Commissioner Steve Horner, who provided information during a Dec. 17 public meeting, all food on a restaurant’s menu must be available as long as alcoholic beverages are being served.
Kinser quoted Horner as saying: “If I come into your restaurant and there is steak on the menu, then I better be able to order a steak.” Kinser said that, according to what she understood after speaking with Horner, the issue was governed by state statute.
Defending her position, Reidy said that Davis had informed her that KRS 244.290 and 244.480, the statutes, which govern hours of operation, do not state how late restaurant kitchens must remain open.
Chamber president Joe Schoenbaechler also testified, saying that specific language about what restaurants have to do when they are serving alcohol, such as providing a full menu, is not present in state law.
That presented the question, “What language are ‘we’ comfortable with following the terms of ‘our’ referendum,” he said.
County attorney John Fendley confirmed that state statute does not address the issue. “It is your decision,” Fendley told the magistrates. “There is no black-letter law.”
Judge Kinser later said that the amount of the fee, which provides for administration of the ordinance, was established based on that of other counties and is, in fact, typical. The fee will be reviewed annually to determine if it is appropriate, Kinser said.
Following Reidy was testimony by Westport General Store owner Will Crawford, who echoed her concerns. Also speaking during the public comment session were Liz Burrows and Robert Clark, both of La Grange, and Michael Reidy, co-owner of The Irish Rover. Burrows thanked magistrates for including in the ordinance mandatory server training. Reidy also thanked magistrates and testified to the importance of Sunday sales to his business. Clark asked that magistrates consider not allowing alcohol sales on Sunday.
Following Clark’s testimony, the public comment session was closed. Magistrates then discussed the concerns raised by Reidy and confirmed a few minor details.
Selecting language they felt would alleviate the concerns of Reidy but not compromise the intent of the law, magistrates revised Article I, subparagraph (b) of the ordinance to read: “The sale of alcoholic beverages shall be accessory to the sale of food, offered only ‘during times in which the licensee’s food service is available.’ “
Also revised was Article IV, Fees Pursuant to KRS 243.070, subparagraph (b), which was amended to read: “The annual County license fee for the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday shall be $1.” The paragraph previously established no fee for extended hours. The court retained the regulatory 5 percent license fee.
Now that the ordinance has passed, county officials estimate it will be May 1 before restaurants are actually serving alcoholic beverages. Two reasons for the delay are a 30-day waiting period in case there are appeals and KRS 424, which requires applicants to publish a notice of intent to apply for an alcoholic beverage license in a newspaper prior to an application being considered.

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