Should Kentucky grocery stores be allowed to sell liquor and wine?
That’s the topic of arguments to be heard Tuesday by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn overturned Kentucky’s ban on grocery store sales. In his ruling he said it violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Kentucky grocery shoppers can purchase beer at most locations, but under state law they have to go elsewhere for liquor and wine. Some groceries have adjacent liquor stores to comply with the law.
“The legislature determined that the liquor and wine should not be sold in stores whose business included substantial sales of groceries or gasoline,” says Dick Brown, spokesman for the state’s Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control.
“A number of the alcoholic beverage control laws are antiquated. They date back, really, to the prohibition era in the 1920’s and 30s,” Brown says.
Kentucky has recently updated or changed a number of those laws to streamline the licensing structure, he says.
But the laws provide a balance between those who oppose the sale or use of alcohol altogether and those who sell or drink alcohol, Brown says.
Opposition likely stems from some people’s personal or religious beliefs, while others may think more access to liquor means more alcohol related social problems, he says.
The ABC department is appealing Heyburn’s decision this year that called Kentucky’s law arbitrary because it separates grocers from other retailers.
Brown says it’s not ABC’s job to set the law, but the agency must enforce it. Both sides have asked the courts to expedite their decision, he says.