By Greg Bird
As the Fiscal Court begins preparations to pass an ordinance legalizing alcohol sales in McCreary County, a working session was held Friday to discuss the ordinance that will have to be passed officially making the county “wet.”
At the request of Judge Executive Jimmie Greene, Emergency Management Director Stephen McKinney gave an hour-long presentation to the Fiscal Court outlining what can and can’t be done regarding alcohol sales.
As the majority of the laws are established at the state level, a draft ordinance had been forwarded to the county from KaCO, giving officials a framework of local laws.
There are a few areas where the Fiscal Court will have to make decisions prior to passing the ordinance, such as allowing Sunday sales, regulatory fees, training and limiting or prohibiting quota drink licenses.
Sunday sales, and sales after midnight are prohibited at the state level, but cities and counties can offer a special license authorizing such sales.
McKinney stated the Fiscal Court will have to decide what percentage to set regulatory fees, which will generate the revenue to run the local ABC administration office and additional law enforcement.
State law dictates a maximum of five percent can be collected in a year, but the rates of certain fees can be set higher as long as the total collected does not exceed the five-percent. McKinney noted Somerset and Corbin both have rates of seven percent for liquor by the drink, five percent on liquor package and four percent on beer sales. Danville, by comparison, has rates of five, four and three percent respectively.
The majority of licenses expected to be granted in the county would most likely be for beer package sales, which would presumably also be the highest generator of fees.
The state ABC office offers alcohol server training courses on-line, and the County could require each licensee to complete the training as part of the process.
McKinney said the Fiscal Court could also opt to not sell quota drink licenses – allowing for restaurants to sell liquor by the drink with no seating restriction – but it would have to offer a non-quota license – which would permit such sales as long as the restaurant has more than 50 seats and derives more than 50 percent of their revenue through food sales.
One question regarding prohibiting certain locations from selling alcohol based on their distance from a school was clarified when it was noted there can be no such restriction, but a business within 1,000 feet of a school is not permitted to have outside advertising for beer or liquor.
The draft ordinance provided to the Fiscal Court had suggested license costs for certain licenses. A retail package license, along with a retail quota drink license and a non-quota retail license – all dealing with liquor sales – would be $1,000 per year. A beer package and beer by the drink license would be $400 annually. Other licenses, such as Sunday sales and limited golf course licenses range from $300 to $1,400.
McKinney said there are still questions that need to be answered, and he was to meet with Danville’s ABC Administrator Bridgette Lester this week to learn more about the local options. Lester also serves as the President of the Kentucky ABC Administrators Association, so she should be able to offer invaluable guidance in the learning process for McCreary County.
The county will be officially “wet” on January 5, 2020. Prior to that the Fiscal Court will need to pass an ordinance and hire an ABC Administrator. McKinney said whoever is appointed for the administrator position would need to be versed in accounting practices, as a major part of the job would be to gather monthly fees from local licensees and manage the funds.
Plans are for the Fiscal Court to pass a first reading of the ordinance during their regular session on December 12, with a second reading coming at a special session – tentatively scheduled for the first week of January.
Once the county becomes officially “wet,” it would likely be at least a few weeks before the first license could be issued.
By law, a license applicant must advertise they are seeking a license, and be subject to a 30-day period where the application could be contested. Any contest of a local license would be overseen by the state ABC Board.
Even after a local license is issued, the licensee would also need to obtain a state license, which would be their official license to sell. State law does require a local license before granting a state license, except for certain situations.