Local leaders push repeal of Sunday alcohol restrictions

by Jonathan Gaby on April 3, 2018

*Editor’s Note: The below is the full text of an article written by Alfred Miller at the State Journal on Tuesday, March 27th, 2018. Capital Cellars’ owner Rachael Peake is quoted. The actual article appears on the State Journal’s website here: https://www.state-journal.com/2018/03/27/local-leaders-push-repeal-of-sunday-alcohol-restrictions/*

In a bid to boost downtown business, some local leaders are lobbying for the removal of restrictions on the sale of alcohol on Sundays.

In recent days, Downtown Frankfort Inc. has circulated a proposed resolution among various groups, including the local tourism commission, economic development agency and chamber of commerce, that endorses “the amendment of local ordinances to eliminate restrictions on Sunday alcohol sales in Frankfort,” according to a version of the resolution KCDC has already passed.

The resolution notes that Frankfort hosts many looking to “experience the heritage, tradition and deep-rooted legacy that is associated with the bourbon industry,” but that “opportunities for these visitors to stay in Frankfort and spend money are particularly limited on Sundays.”

Currently, similar city and county ordinances bar the sale of alcoholic beverages at retail and allow their sale, by the drink, after 1 p.m. at some restaurants and private clubs. Changes to these ordinances would require the approval of local government, but not a referendum, since after a jurisdiction has gone wet, the terms of sale are a local decision handled by ordinance, according to Franklin County Alcoholic Beverage Control Deputy Administrator Eric Cockley.

Capital Cellars owner Rachael Peake told The State Journal that the city ordinance, which requires establishments selling alcohol by the drink to derive at least half of their income from the sale of food and totally bars package sales, have forced her store to remain closed on Sundays.

“We are in a unique position in downtown Frankfort. We have to tourists looking for a place to go and they can’t get a tasty beverage on a hot summer day,” said Peake. “They see a closed-up downtown.”

Peake said a change in the ordinances and an agreement among downtown businesses to remain open on Sundays would help change Frankfort’s reputation as a “tiny little dead town” on Sundays.

Not everyone agrees, however, that downtown Frankfort needs a shot of Sunday alcohol sales to boost the local economy.

“The last thing we need is more alcohol downtown,” said C. Michael Davenport, a local property developer and outspoken critic of the promotion of alcohol consumption.

Davenport, who describes the Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels lining Frankfort’s downtown streets as a form of indoctrination, says his views on alcohol were shaped by his being struck by a drunk driver at a young age and his witnessing alcohol abuse firsthand. The businessman said great products — other than alcohol — are all downtown Frankfort needs to thrive.

Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells told The State Journal he would oppose allowing Sunday alcohol sales during church hours but added that current ordinances — by allowing sales by the drink at restaurants while barring package sales — promote drunk driving.

“Let’s don’t promote drinking and driving,” said Wells.

Frankfort Mayor Bill May said it was too early for him to say whether he’d support DFI’s proposed changes.

“I have to see and talk to more people to see how it would affect local business owners,” he said.

DFI Vice President Harry Carver, who drafted his group’s proposed resolution, described the push for Sunday alcohol sales as part of a broader effort to attract people to downtown Frankfort on Sundays. Carver noted that even the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, which he called Frankfort’s Smithsonian, is closed on Sundays.

“I think Sunday afternoon is our big hole, and it’s bigger than Sunday alcohol sales,” Carver said.

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