Kentucky Re-Examines State Laws On Sale Of Liquor

One U.S. district judge calls Kentucky’s law prohibiting the sale of wine and liquor in c-stores and grocery stores “unconstitutional.”

A U.S. district judge ruled Tuesday that a Kentucky law prohibiting grocery and convenience stores from selling wine and liquor is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II of Louisville, Ky., said the state law “violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause in that it prohibits certain grocery stores, gas stations and others . . . from obtaining a license to sell package liquor and wine.”

Previously, beer was the only alcoholic beverage permitted to be sold in grocery stores, but the grocery stores could get a license to sell wine or liquor if they provided a separate entrance to that section of the store where minors would not be allowed to work. However, these old regulations didn’t apply for the state’s drugstores.

“You can walk into a large CVS or Walgreens, and they can have as many groceries to sell as grocery stores do, yet they can (also) sell alcoholic beverages in the store while a grocery cannot,” said Steve Pitt, a Louisville, Ky., attorney who represents Maxwell’s Pic-Pac Inc. and the Food and Wine Coalition in their civil lawsuit against the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Eric Gregory, president of the Frankfort, Ky.-based Kentucky’s Distillers’ Association, said his group and its members haven’t had a chance to discuss Heyburn’s ruling, but the group generally opposes these types of proposals in state legislature, saying it could hurt small liquor retail businesses.

Heyburn said his order would be put on hold until the court could host a conference with parties involved to discuss various issues. If the order stands, the ruling could flood the state with license applications from grocery stores, convenience stores and gas stations looking to sell wine and liquor.

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