Of course, most people are aware of the point in time in U.S. history when alcohol sales were prohibited throughout the entire nation. While prohibition ended in 1933, many states, including the Commonwealth of Kentucky, have since enacted laws related to the sale and consumption of alcohol. Many of Kentucky’s famous bourbon distilleries are located in dry counties which prohibit the sale of alcohol. It could be worse. Massachusetts law disallows happy hours, bottomless mimosa brunches, drinks on the house, and beer pong tournaments.
Kentucky’s laws concerning the sale and consumption of alcohol are a confusing body, a patchwork of counties with distinct policies on the use of alcohol. This consists of dry counties that prohibit all sale of alcoholic beverages; wet counties that allow full retail sales under state license; and “moist” counties that are somewhere between “dry” and “wet” counties. Thirty-nine of Kentucky’s 120 counties are dry.
The designation of “moist” may also refer to a county where alcohol sales have been approved under any of the special provisions allowed by Kentucky law. Some dry counties may have a “limited” status whereby there is some approval of the sale of alcohol by the drink at qualifying restaurants. Under this category, the Kentucky Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) has secondary classifications of “Limited (100)” and “Limited (50)” with the numbers referring to the seating capacity required for a restaurant to apply for a license. There may also be approval in dry counties of the sale of alcohol by the drink at a golf course or qualified historical site.
A Kentucky Supreme Court justice wrote in 1985 that the state’s alcohol laws were a “maze of obscure statutory language” and “confusing at best.” In 2012, the general counsel of the ABC stated “that’s still the case.” As a result of such confusion and lack of uniformity, Governor Steve Beshear appointed a task force in 2012 to try to make some rational change to the state’s alcohol laws. In 2013, this task force made recommendations that included streamlining and modernizing the current licensing process; clarifying regulations for local option elections, and improving public safety through appropriate legislation.
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