Georgetown voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to determine the fate of package alcohol sales in the city limits. Dozens of city residents have already cast their votes via early or absentee voting, said county elections coordinator Amber Hoffman. On Friday she reported 76 in-office absentee ballots had been cast. The office also has received four mail-in absentee ballots. Voting machines were delivered to polling precincts Friday, Hoffman said.
The question on the ballot facing Georgetown voters is, “Are you in favor of the sale of alcoholic beverages in Georgetown, Ky.”
While the question appears to open the door to any sort of alcohol sales, that is not the case says Steve Humphress, general counsel for the Kentucky Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.
The measure on the ballot would allow for the sales of package alcohol sales, but would not allow bars to open in the city limits.
Kentucky has an assortment of alcohol sales laws, and they sometimes differ depending on the size of the city in question. As a Fourth-Class city, Georgetown is free to enact a number of alcohol sales laws. One was approved 10 years ago, and allowed alcoholic beverages to be sold in restaurants.
According to the ABC, the passage or failure of Tuesday’s ballot measure will not affect sale of alcoholic beverages going on in Georgetown. Passage of the measure would not eliminate the requirement that restaurants seat at least 100 and garner a set percentage of gross receipts from food sales.
Neither would failure of the measure end such sales.
The question on the ballot Tuesday only applies to package sales of liquor and beer. Liquor would be permitted only in a controlled number of city- and state-approved businesses. It would also allow for the sale of beer and malt beverages in a wider number of businesses, such as gas stations and convenience stores.
In order to legalize bars, that is establishments which sell alcohol by the drink but do not sell food, Georgetown voters would have to approve that in another special election.
According to information provided by Humphress, state regulation limits the number of package liquor sales permits based on the city’s population. Package liquor sales permits are based on a ratio of no more than one store for every 2,300 citizens.
With a few more than 29,000 residents counted in the 2010 census, Georgetown would be eligible for as many as a dozen liquor stores.
Each liquor store must be a free-standing structure as licenses are not issued to grocery or convenience stores. Such stores, however, may obtain a permit to sell beer and malt beverages.
The ABC also holds discretion to grant or refuse any application for a license. Among the factors which may be considered are: public sentiment in the area, number of licensed outlets in the area, potential for future growth, type of area involved, type of transportation available and the financial potential of the area.
Before applying for a state license, a retailer must first be approved by the city ABC administrator.
From a revenue standpoint, state law allowed cities to charge a licensing fee, and levy additional regulatory licensing fees, including a fee based on the gross profits of licenses businesses.
State law says the fee but be “reasonable estimated to fully reimburse the cost of additional policing, regulatory and administrative expenses.”
ABC information notes that fees must be used to reimburse the city for such expenses, but may free up other money in the general fund.
Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 6 p.m.
Area restaurants will be permitted to serve food throughout the day Tuesday, but will not be permitted to sell alcoholic beverages until after the polls close.