Council approves Sunday liquor sales

By Erica Mitchell

Starting Dec. 11, Lexington residents will be able to purchase liquor on Sundays and order alcoholic beverages in restaurants and bars later into the night, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council decided yesterday.

In a 10-4 vote, the council approved an ordinance that expands Lexington’s current Sunday liquor laws to allow alcohol-by-the-drink and packaged alcohol sales at all restaurants, bars, liquor stores, convenience stores and grocery stores.

Council members Andrea James, Jay McChord, Kevin Stinnett and George Myers voted against the ordinance.

“I still haven’t seen a report of how there will be economic impact,” James said.

Councilwoman Linda Gorton was not at the meeting.

James, who represents the first district, asked the other council members to look beyond economic reasoning and think about families with alcoholics.

“A few hours of not being able to buy liquor or buy a half pint means a lot to that family,” she said.

James’ comment drew many “amens” from the crowd, which consisted mostly of opponents of the ordinance.

During the reading, James made a motion to delay the vote, saying it was a “topic that needed longer discussion,” but the motion failed.

Community members in favor of and opposed to the ordinance were allowed to choose one speaker on their behalf.

Many supporters of the ordinance believe the new law will allow Lexington to become more competitive and bring in more businesses.

“This would make us more appealing. It keeps us competitive with cities in Kentucky and beyond,” said Renee Jackson, president of the Downtown Lexington Corporation.

Jeffery J. Fugate, pastor of Clays Mill Road Baptist Church, spoke on behalf of community members who opposed the ordinance.

The council has talked about addressing alcohol problems among UK students, Fugate said, and a vote for expanded alcohol sales would make alcohol more accessible to the university community.

“What message are (council members) going to send if they let students buy more liquor?” Fugate said. “We contend that if you expand alcohol, you expand alcohol related accidents, injuries and deaths.”

However, council member Tom Blues said he does not believe the new law will change things. Blues said he suffered a “great loss” as a result of an incident involving alcohol and is convinced that  it had nothing to do with what day alcohol is sold on. He didn’t comment on the circumstances of the incident.

Before last night, Lexington’s liquor law allowed restaurants that can seat 100 people and that generate at least half of their revenue from food to sell alcohol by the drink from 1 to 11 p.m. on Sundays. Some racetracks, convention centers and hotels, with supplemental alcohol licenses, could also sell alcohol until 2:30 a.m.

The new ordinance allows all retail establishments with a liquor license to sell distilled spirits and wine-by-the-drink from 11 a.m. Sunday to 2:30 a.m. Monday and package sales from 1 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Beer-by-the-drink and by package can be sold from 11 a.m. Sunday to 2:30 a.m. Monday.

Council member Stinnett agreed with Blues, saying he believed alcoholism is a problem that should be addressed and that the day of the week didn’t matter.

“If there is a death on Sunday, people on this council will be blamed,” Stinnett said. “Who is the blame for every other day of the week. It’s not about the when and where, it’s the why.”

Stinnett said he voted against the ordinance because he did not agree with the way it was written and how it was presented.

The new ordinance will allow more businesses to open on Sundays.

“It levels the playing field,” said Vince Carlucci, owner of Solid Platinum, a strip club. “It’s an extra 52 days of business for me.”

Jack Kelly, chief executive officer of the 2010 World Equestrian Games, said he believes the issue was about meeting expectations of Fayette County residents and visitors.

“I think people will come here and expect the opportunity to buy a mixed drink or malt beverage,” he said.